Taxpayer Calculator: $8Billion in Earmarks
While most Americans digest the latest Congressional spending bill, Washington insiders are already counting noses.
A showdown is coming to D.C. and the pressure is on Democrats to hold together despite mounting criticism of wasteful spending, while Republicans look to grab some crossover votes. The fate of the government, literally hangs in the balance. Without Congressional action on a budget, the federal government shuts down for lack of money.
The latest showdown comes largely as a result of earmarks. Both sides know they have to pay roughly a trillion dollars to just to keep the government running, but it's those pet projects seen as wasteful, irresponsible and unnecessary that have voters upset and many in Congress afraid.
All but eight Senate Republicans had agreed to a two year ban on earmarks. A majority Democrats did not, voting down a proposed ban just two weeks ago.
The $1.1 trillion Senate omnibus bill contains 6,714 earmarks worth $8.3 billion.
Sources say the deal was hammered out principally by Sen. Dan Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii and Thad Cochran, Republican of Mississippi.
Not only are they the ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, they are the also the reigning kings of pork. In 2010, Cochran won 240 earmarks worth $490 million, while Inouye sponsored or co-sponsored 151 programs worth $387 million.
This year's omnibus is no different, with each senator helping sponsor dozens of earmarks exceeding $100 million, including:
$21 million Hawaiian Health Care
$6 million wildlife refuge
$3 million Hawaii National Guard drug program
$5.5 million Joint Venture Education Center
$21 million Gulf Coast Test Center
$5 million Natural Products Center
$4 million Large Structure Building Center
$3.4 million Anti Drug Center
While lawmakers argue about the legitimacy of earmarks, in this case there is no doubt this bill lacks debate and careful consideration. All 6,000 earmarks got air dropped without a floor debate and members--let alone the public--barely had the chance to decide if any of these earmarks are a wise use of taxpayer money.