|3:07 PM EDT||
Jeff Flake, R-AZ 6th
Mr. FLAKE. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
We didn't have to be here today. We could have acted more responsibly in 2005, when we reauthorized the highway bill. At that time, I heard a number of people, appropriators and others, stand up and say: We are authorizing more than we will have money for. We knew it at the time. Anybody who really looked at this knew that we were authorizing more than the highway trust fund contained for projects.
To make matters worse, and part of the reason we had far more than we could fund is we had over 6,300 earmarks in the highway bill. That is why this thing was so big. That accounted for about $24 billion of the highway bill.
Now, some of those projects, I grant you, would have been funded anyway in the highway bill. There were projects that a Member wanted that would have been funded out of that State's formula anyway. But there are a lot of projects that would not.
We all know about the infamous Bridge to Nowhere. That was part of this bill. But some of the lesser known things that are in this bill that have far too little to do with transportation, I would submit:
$16 million for the Bremerton Pedestrian Transportation Center in Washington State; $3 million for a parking garage in suburban Chicago; $3.5 million for pedestrian walkways and streetscaping in the village of Western Springs, Illinois; $3.5 million to improve the Pennsylvania Executive Mansion exhibit; $1.5 for the American Tobacco Trail in North Carolina; $800,000 for a transportation and heritage museum in Tennessee; $4 million for bike trails and park space in California; $1 million for the
Please Touch Me Museum in Philadelphia; $1 million for the Blue Ridge Mountain Center in Virginia.
These are earmarks that are funded in this bill, part of the reason we are having to steal money from the general fund and fund back the highway trust fund, because we just went hog wild back in 2005.
Just a few examples of some others:
$2.75 million for renovations to the National Packard Museum in Ohio; $2.4 for the National Infantry Museum. Might be a good museum; probably shouldn't be funded out of the highway trust fund.
Yet, instead of going in and saying we are going to rescind these earmarks if they haven't been funded yet, some have, some haven't, we are saying we are going to take from the general fund. When you start doing that, you set a horrible precedent in this place, because we know the amount of logrolling that goes on in a highway bill. And if you don't have the natural ceiling that exists with the highway trust fund, where you say we can spend that much and no more; if you can say, well, when we
run out, we will just go out and take from the general fund, then ``Katie bar the door,'' this place is going to be out of money sooner than you think. Because when you have this amount of money and you pass around the projects and you have so much buy-in, then very few will vote against that bill because their own projects are in it, and soon we are taking more and more money from the general fund.
We cannot start that process with this bill, and that is what this bill is doing. That is what this amendment is doing today. We have got to act more fiscally responsible.
Let me just go through a few more.
$1.2 million for the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. Now, might be a good museum, probably shouldn't be funded with your highway dollars. $500,000 for the Railroad Museum in Georgia; $200,000 for the Brooklyn Children's Museum.
If you are catching a theme here, there are a lot of museums funded in this bill, again, money that is coming out of the highway trust fund that we overburdened the highway trust fund with that we now have to get money from the general fund for.
One of the previous speakers said that there is a national consensus or that the Nation is united on this topic that we need to take from the general fund. I would say, where the Nation is united is that we have got to stop this earmarking process. And if we get to it next week, hopefully we will, the appropriation bill for the Department of Defense, you will see more of it, because that bill contains 1,200 earmarks. The bill that has been marked up in [Page: H8041]
subcommittee of appropriations for defense, 1,200 earmarks.
I took a look at it just to see. It is very difficult to see where the money is and where it is going, but one thing we could see is what we see in every bill that contains a lot of earmarks: A disproportionate number of the earmarks are going to those who chair committees, those in leadership positions, or those who are on the Appropriations Committee.
In fact, 1,200 earmarks, as I mentioned. Of these 1,200, more than 560 are associated with appropriators and members of leadership. That is a staggering 45 percent of the earmarks included in the committee print. That is not uncommon; that is what called the spoil system, and that is why it is unlikely that we will be able to stop this amendment today.
Please, let's be fiscally responsible.