No earmarks, but still plenty for lawmakers to take credit for


Sen. Thad Cochran greets supporters as they cheer his entrance at McElroy’s in Ocean Springs, Miss., on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Sun Herald, Amanda McCoy)

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) strongly defended his earmarking record while facing a far right primary challenger who attacked him as a big government spender. Now that he’s pretty much safe for another six years, Cochran remains just as unapologetic.

His flaunting it must make former challenger Chris McDaniel roll in his proverbial political grave.

Of course there are no actual earmarks anymore and haven’t been since 2011. But if you’re the type of lawmaker who heralds sending federal dollars home, there’s still plenty of opportunity to boast.

When the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved its $549.3 billion defense appropriations bill late last week Cochran’s office put out a press release bragging about what in it would directly benefit Mississippi. There’s $800 million for a new warship to be built in the state. His office bullet-pointed funding over and above the White House budget request for programs that benefit other Mississippi military projects and bases.

Of the 14 Senate Republicans on the appropriations committee, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska.),  Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) also put out statements declaring victory that certain defense funding line items would trickle down to their states. While the senators aren’t inserting specific handpicked projects like the old days, appropriators still retain the ability to, in effect, direct money to favored initiatives.

To be sure, plenty of Democrats also say they oppose earmarks, but it’s typically Republicans who are attacked in primaries over government spending.

More telling about today’s Congress is the fact that 10 GOP appropriators did not want credit for their work. Especially since it was a Pentagon spending bill, which used to be chock full of pork — in 2010, it had 1,735 disclosed earmarks, the second most of that year’s 12 appropriations bills, according to data from Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Back then, before the earmark moratorium, Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), who is now the ranking Republican of the defense appropriations subcommittee, put out four separate press releases announcing the billions of dollars in defense funding he’d secured for regions in his state. This year, his office released a short statement focused partly on the need to rein in entitlement program spending. No mention of benefits to Alabama.

L. Murkowski

R-AK

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by Greenhouse | data OpenSecrets.org

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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