By Reid Wilson
Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget.
Tea Party Hypocrisy?
According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.
“It’s disturbing to see the Tea Party Caucus requested that much in earmarks. This is their time to put up or shut up, to be blunt,” said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste. “There’s going to be a huge backlash if they continue to request earmarks.”
In founding the caucus in July, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she was giving voice to Americans who were sick of government over-spending.
“The American people are speaking out loud and clear. They have had enough of the spending, the bureaucracy, and the government knows best mentality running rampant today throughout the halls of Congress,” Bachmann said in a July 15 statement. The group, she wrote in a letter to House Administration Committee chairman Bob Brady, “will serve as an informal group of Members dedicated to promote Americans’ call for fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution, and limited government.”
Bachmann and 13 of her Tea Party Caucus colleagues did not request any earmarks in the last Fiscal Year, according to CAGW’s annual Congressional Pig Book. But others have requested millions of dollars in special projects.
Cases in Point and Counter Examples
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), for one, attached his name to 69 earmarks in the last fiscal year, for a total of $78,263,000. The 41 earmarks Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) requested were worth $65,395,000. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) wanted $63,400,000 for 39 special projects, and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wanted $93,980,000 set aside for 47 projects.
Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) takes the prize as the Tea Partier with his name on the most earmarks. Rehberg’s office requested funding for 88 projects, either solely or by co-signing earmarks requests with Sens. Max Baucus (D) and Jon Tester (D), at a cost of $100,514,200. On his own, Rehberg requested 20 earmarks valued at more than $9.6 million.
More than one member can sign onto an earmark. Still, there are 29 caucus members who requested on their own or joined requests for more than $10 million in earmark funding, and seven who wanted more than $50 million in funding.
Most offices did not respond right away to a request for comment. Those that did said they supported Republicans’ new efforts to ban earmarks.
Alexander, for one, “stands with his fellow Republicans in the House in supporting the current earmark ban. Since joining the Tea Party Caucus in July, he has not submitted any earmark requests and has withdrawn his outstanding requests that were included in the most recent Water Resources Development Act,” said Jamie Hanks, his communications director.
Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), who requested 25 earmarks in the last Fiscal Year at a total cost of just over $80 million, has agreed to abide by the Republican earmark ban, according to spokesman Adam Buckalew. “He supported the moratorium and the prohibition adopted recently by the Conference on House earmarks for the 112th Congress,” Buckalew said of Harper.
TEA Means “Taxed Enough Already”
“It’s easy to be a member of the TEA Party Caucus because, like them, I agree that we’re Taxed Enough Already and we’ve got to balance the budget by cutting spending instead of raising taxes. Deficit spending is not new, but the unprecedented rate of spending in Congress is,” Rehberg said in a statement emailed by his office.
“Montanans have tightened their belts, and it’s way past time for Congress to follow their lead. The TEA Party Caucus is about listening to concerned Americans who want to fundamentally change how Congress spends their tax dollars. On that, we’re in total agreement.”
Bachmann’s office did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment.
Still, some Republicans — albeit none who belong to the Tea Party caucus — have said they will not abide by the voluntary earmark ban. And, said CAGW’s Williams, the anti-spending organization isn’t waiting with baited breath.
“Seeing is believing. It’s going to take a lot more than rhetoric to convince us,” he said.
Naming the Names
A list of Tea Party Caucus members and their earmark requests in Fiscal Year 2010, courtesy of Citizens Against Government Waste’s Pig Book:
|R. Bishop (R-UT)||47||$93,980,000|
|S. Graves (R-MO)||11||$8,331,000|
|R. Hall (R-TX)||16||$12,232,000|
|S. King (R-IA)||13||$6,650,000|
|Gary Miller (R-CA)||15||$19,627,500|
|Jerry Moran (R-KS)||22||$19,400,000|
|T. Price (R-GA)||0||0|
|P. Sessions (R-TX)||0||0|
|Adrian Smith (R-NE)||1||$350,000|
|L. Smith (R-TX)||18||$14,078,000|
Reid Wilson writes for the National Journal.