After failing to stop what he called an “earmark,” one Republican lawmaker is preparing to fight the possible return of pork-barrel spending in Congress.
Rep. Ted Budd worked to block $900 million in a transportation funding bill bound for an Amtrak project in New Jersey, saying the funding violated the House’s ban on earmarks.
The North Carolina Republican’s amendment, which would have let other cities apply for the money, failed Wednesday in a House vote, 260-159.
“I had a lot of my conservative colleagues say, ‘Thank you for being in the fight and being in the lead,’” Budd said.
“And then I also had some from the New Jersey [and] New York delegation come up and slap me on the back and say, ‘I am going to get re-elected because I fought your amendment,’” he added.
The $900 million allocation would go to the $29.5 billion project, a tunnel, bridge, and related infrastructure upgrade proposed to improve Amtrak passenger service between Newark, New Jersey, and New York City, according to Budd’s office.
Earmarks, which direct taxpayer money to special interests and projects through the budget without competition based on merit, were banned under House rules in 2010. But, Budd argues, this allocation fits the description of an earmark.
“That really gets under their skin, but look, we’re about being honest and about defeating these things,” Budd said. “I don’t really care what you call them, but they are earmarks and those are what we stopped in 2010.”
Some Republicans supported the allocation.
“The Northeast Corridor region is an economic powerhouse,” Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., said during debate, NJ.com reported. “Travel up and down this corridor of passengers and freight is critical to the economy of the United States.”
But former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who has called earmarks “the gateway drug to overspending,” was not positive about the $900 million.
“This was an earmark in the transportation bill, which is why authorization bills need to have no earmarks as well as appropriation bills,” Coburn said in an email to The Daily Signal.
“The rationalization coming out of D.C. never ceases to amaze me,” the former senator added. “You see our children do not matter. What matters is what makes the politicians look good at home.”
Budd said he will be ready to fight future instances.
“Some of these are going to come up in various opportunities,” Budd said. “We expect that in the infrastructure discussions coming up we’ll see attempts like this to earmark. … So we’ll have to be on our toes to watch out for these things.”
This report has been modified to correct the day of the vote.