WASHINGTON – Another attempt to put a moratorium on earmarks — local pet projects slipped into legislation —- failed Wednesday, a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted that an earmark freeze was still a possibility. The House voted against a Republican-backed plan 215 to 199.
Republicans timed their effort to coincide with the release of the annual Congressional Pig Book, distributed by the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. The pig book details pork-barrel spending and was rolled out with pig-costumed staffers pushing barrels.
Overall pork barrel spending went up 30 percent in the 2008 fiscal year and the number of pet projects jumped by 337 percent — to more than 11,600. The cost of all the earmarked projects was $17.2 billion
According to the book, the top three lawmakers slipping pet projects into bills are all Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee — Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi with $892 million; Ted Stevens of Alaska with $469 million and Richard Shelby of Alabama with $465 million.
But the 50-page book is filled with bipartisan pork, including a few high-priced luxuries:
— $1.9 million for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at The City College of New York. The project was slipped into the Labor/Health and Human Services spending bill by none other than Rep. Charles B. Rangel, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
-- $3 million for "The First Tee," a program designed to teach the game of golf to young people. This was slipped into the Defense Appropriations Bill by House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. Though The First Tee has extensive corporate sponsors and individual donators, Clyburn said the program "will help make generals and colonels."
— $188,000 for the Lobster Institute in Maine. This was added by Maine's Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, along with Rep. Thomas Allen. It is said to be a cooperative program of "research and education with the lobster industry." Among other programs, the institute has been working on an underwater "lobster cam" and touts one of its achievements as the creation of lobster biscuits for dogs.
— More than $740,000 went to olive fruit fly research, of which $211,000 will pay for research that takes place in Paris, France. This program was added to the agriculture spending bill by Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson of California.
— Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia is a legendary pork barreller, and in his list of earmarks this year is $123,050 for a Mother's Day shrine in Grafton, W.V., which has a population of 5,489.
— Virginia Republican Rep. Virgil Goode added $98,000 to the budget to develop a walking tour of Boydton, Va., which boasts a population of 474 and covers less than one square mile.
As for the presidential candidates, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is listed as being named on 281 earmarks, among them $390,000 for jazz music at Lincoln Center. The other Democrat in the race, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, is listed on 52 earmarks, including $1.6 million for the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The aquarium receives 2 million visitors a year and has 36 corporate backers.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, the expected Republican presidential nominee, did not request any earmarks this year. He issued a statement instead lauding CAGW for issuing the book.
"Once again, my friends at CAGW have done a great job of compiling a comprehensive list of unnecessary and wasteful pork barrel projects. By shedding light on these egregious projects, they are helping to make Congress more accountable to the American people," McCain said..
Bret Baier is the Chief Political Anchor of Fox News Channel, and the Anchor & Executive Editor of "Special Report with Bret Baier.” His book, "Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission," (William Morrow) is on sale now.