House OKs $3.9 billion in earmarks in spending bill

Democrats note that they’ve cracked down on pork-barrel politics seen in Republican times, and sponsors say the projects are important to economic recovery – but critics aren’t impressed.

by Richard Simon
The Los Angeles Times
December 11, 2009

Reporting from Washington – Getting into the holiday spirit, the House of Representatives on Thursday approved a spending bill loaded with goodies for the folks back home.

Trails for Monterey Bay. An arts pavilion for Mississippi. Bus shelters for Bellflower.

In all, the bill contains 5,224 earmarks costing about $3.9 billion, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group.

Though Democrats say they have cracked down on pork-barrel spending, critics attacked the bill as excessive.

“Clearly, the earmark culture has not been swept away,” Brian M. Riedl, a budget analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, blogged Thursday.

The $447-billion bill, which passed the Democratic-controlled House with no Republican votes and moved to the Senate, combines six spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The measure brings total earmarks in this year’s spending bills to 7,577 at a cost of about $6 billion, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. The Pentagon spending bill, the last of the annual appropriations bills, is expected to contain more earmarks than the omnibus bill, said Steve Ellis of the taxpayer group.

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