WASHINGTON — Lawmakers rallied to protect home-state projects from an assault by a determined conservative colleague as the House on Wednesday passed a spending bill for transportation, housing programs and the Internal Revenue Service.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) took to the House floor to object to such projects, forcing their sponsors to defend them in person.
Flake opposes the practice of dedicating federal dollars to earmarked projects such as community centers, sports facilities, libraries and parks.
The underlying bill passed by a 406-22 vote after a two-day debate.
Flake forced votes on four projects. Two were inserted by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) for his district: $500,000 for an athletic center for Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa and $500,000 for a swimming pool for the city of Banning.
Flake's amendments were defeated by ratios of about 6 to 1, reflecting the broad support for lawmakers' cherished right to direct taxpayer dollars back home.
The votes came despite sentiment among the GOP's core conservative supporters that the process has gotten out of control.
Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and other defenders of earmarks said that lawmakers knew best the needs of their districts and that each of the projects in the bill would have economic benefits.
"How can we with any credibility tell a federal bureaucrat, 'You're wasting dollars,' when we're telling them to spend ... housing dollars on athletic centers at community colleges?" Flake asked.