Lawmakers From Texas Still Like Pork

The Houston Metro would see some big bucks from the budget, so would the LBJ library. The city El Paso would get federal money to fix its sewer pipes. All together, the Texas delegation wants to bring home half a billion dollars. Democratic Congressman Gene Green brags about more than two million dollars for the University of Houston's wind energy center.

"Houston is the energy capital of the world, whether it's wind, solar, or oil and gas, or biofuel. I want to keep us on that mark."

Houston area Representatives and the Senators secured over sixty-million dollars for the city. The money would buy more equipment for the city police and convert a landfill into a park. Such projects draw fire from earmark foes, like Arizona Republican Senator John McCain.

"Have any of these projects been examined for whether they are better or worse or more meritorious than others? No, they are in there because of the political clout and seniority of members of Congress."

That is to say, Houston police may be cash-strapped, but there may be another police department out there in the country that's in worse shape. The earmarking process doesn't allow projects to compete. But even McCain's fellow Republicans don't listen to his plea. Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

"For people to say they are against earmarks, is really saying that Congress should have no part in writing a budget when that really is their Constitutional responsibility."

Hutchison says she only considers projects that have national interest, although she requested federal dollars for the city of Midland to spruce up its downtown. Earmarking is so entrenched that even the most conservative lawmakers are along for the ride.

"My answer on all spending request is no. Yes is very hard to earn."

That's Houston Republican John Culberson. He said no to the overall budget, but yes to over sixty-million dollars in earmarks for Texas. Here he is defending his pork requests.

"It has to be absolutely essential and there's no other source of funding available. It has to be preferably in the area of transportation, medical, flood control or scientific research."

A bipartisan majority voted down McCain's amendment to strike all pork-barrel spending in the budget. But he has introduced a bill to give the President power to strip out individual earmarks. They account for less than two percent of the total spending plan.

From Capitol News Connection, Sara Sciammacco, KUHF-Houston Public Radio.
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