This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," February 25, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Barack Obama and John McCain agreed on one thing during the presidential campaign: that it was time for the end of earmarks. So today, the House passed a massive new spending bill, and we asked Ainsley Earhardt to find out, well, how that's all working out — Ainsley.
AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Thank you, Sean.
Well, the definition of "earmark" is to specify or set aside for a particular purpose. The Office of Management and Budget is — their definition is "funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction circumvents executive branch merit-based or competitive allocation processes, or specifies the location or recipient." So basically, politicians directing your tax dollars to their own pet projects.
The new $410 billion omnibus spending bill contains thousands of them. In fact, congressional officials are telling us about 9,000 to be exact. And this bill passed the House today.
Some of our favorites here at FOX happened to be — take a look at this. Senator Harry Reid wants $143,000 for national history programs at the Las Vegas History Museum.
From a Wyoming congressman, Barbara Cubin, put in almost $200,000 for digitizing and editing the collection at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. And get this: she's not even in office anymore.
Then there's the $200,000 to be used for tattoo removal, courtesy of California's Howard Berman.
And Richard Shelby's $800,000 for catfish genetics down in Alabama.
In fact, unfortunately for all of us humans out there, a good part of this money is going to animals and to insects. Down in Texas, honeybees getting almost $2 million, thanks to Congressman Chet Edwards.
More than $1 million to battle Utah's Mormon crickets, which apparently have nothing to do with the Mormon people.
Max Baucus has a quarter of a million slated for the Montana Sheep Institute.
And thanks to Tom Harkin, almost $2 million for swine odor and manure management. Because those pigs and their manure, they do smell pretty bad. We need to do something about that.
And then there is the food issue. More than $2 million for buildings at the Center for Grape Genetics in Geneva, New York, requested by Senator Chuck Schumer. Yes, you heard me right: genetics of grapes.
Senator Saxby Chambliss wants $200,000 for improving blueberry production and efficiency. And more than $300,000 for research in shellfish technologies in Virginia requested by Senator Jim Webb.
And people have to get paid, right? Of course. Well, over $5 million going to salaries of workers at the Sugar Beet Disease and Oncology Labs in Michigan, courtesy of their senator, Mr. Carl Levin.
And one guy who jumped out at us here at FOX News was Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. Among the things that he requested for his state: $2 million for the promotion of astronomy in Hawaii, $162,000 for rodent control, half a million for a fruit fly facility, and more than $200,000 for education programs at the Polynesian Voyaging Society. That's a group studying how Polynesian people sailed around the Pacific Ocean and then settled nearly every island prior to the 16th century. Money well spent, Sean? I'll let you be the judge.
HANNITY: Unbelievable. Thank you. Thank you, Ainsley.
And joining me now is Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake, an outspoken opponent of all these earmarks.
Congressman, thanks for being here. We appreciate it.
REP. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Thanks for having me.
HANNITY: I don't know which one I think is more outrageous than the next. But these are Republicans and Democrats. Here's my first question. Why don't the Republicans now take the high road, be the party of fiscal responsibility, and all Republicans agree they will not do this? Why don't they do that and take the leadership role?
FLAKE: Believe me, some of — some of my colleagues and myself have been arguing this for years. It was devastating today when the Democrats were able to come out and say, "Well, Republicans have 40 percent of these earmarks," and it was true. And we really can't separate ourselves from the Democrats as long as we continue to do this. So I'm with you there. We just can't get our colleagues to do it.
HANNITY: You know, I thought Governor Jindal last night did a very good job, and I don't know why it was criticized. But one of the things he said is we have got to prove to the American people, we have to regain their trust. Because they were not fiscally responsible when they were in power. How does this instill any confidence that the Republicans mean what they say? And how can they, you know, be critical of the spending, which is reckless, of President Obama and be doing this on the side? It makes no sense to me.
FLAKE: It doesn't. It doesn't. And it's very, very frustrating to those of us who have thought for a long, long time that this would be the best way for us to separate ourselves from the Democrats.
Believe me: If we would have said, "We're simply not going to participate in this process. These earmarks cannot be vetted. There was no opportunity to challenge them on the floor. So we Republicans simply aren't going to slip any in," there's absolutely no way the Democrats could have carried forward politically and just put their earmarks in. But they did it with our acquiescence.
And so it's going to be very difficult for Republicans to separate themselves, unless we simply declare a moratorium.
HANNITY: So basically, here is a golden opportunity politically to take a stand in these very tough fiscal times and say to the American people, "We are the party of fiscal responsibility, and they're not taking advantage of it."
Am I wrong in interpreting that to mean that Republicans, by not returning to their conservative values, are basically — have not learned the lessons of 2006 and 2008 and the election results?
FLAKE: Well, it was nice to see Republicans get together on the stimulus. And to a large extent, we voted against this omnibus. There weren't very many votes for it.
But when you lard it up with pork just like the Democrats, believe me, if we could have taken 60 percent as a party, we probably would have. We just won't separate ourselves. And so it's a huge missed opportunity. And we simply cannot gain the trust back.
HANNITY: Why? What are they telling you? What is their justification? Because they've got to be — you know — you're challenging them. What are they saying to you? "Congressman, I need this because I've got to get reelected." What is their justification?
FLAKE: Well, some of them try to claim that it's our constitutional prerogative.
HANNITY: Oh, stop it.
FLAKE: Because we have power of the purse.
HANNITY: Please. Save me here. Come on.
FLAKE: Believe me. I feel the same. That we need to protect our vulnerable members, that this is the best way to get back in a majority. I mean, it simply rings hollow.
And it's just — and it's more than that. There are investigations swirling around a lobby firm connected with a lot of these earmarks. In fact, a lobby firm that secured nearly a dozen earmarks in this bill is under investigation and imploded just a week or so ago. PMA Group. It is really frustrating.
HANNITY: I've got to — it's frustrating to me as a fiscal conservative in these times of economic turmoil when taxes are going to go up, and we are now moving closer and closer to the brink where we're robbing our kids and grandkids of their money. For Republicans to do it, it is — it is — I cannot comprehend how thickheaded they are.
And for all of you congressmen and senators that are Republican, if you don't go back to fiscal conservatism, I predict you'll continue to lose.
So Congressman, thanks for being with us.
FLAKE: Thank you.
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