She may be lagging in the presidential delegate count, but Sen. Hillary Clinton is way ahead of her Senate colleagues in the amount of earmarks she is seeking -- a whopping $2.3 billion.
As reported in The Hill newspaper, Clinton has requested nearly $2.3 billion in federal earmarks for 2009, almost three times the largest amount received by a single senator this year.
This is in contrast, The Hill notes, to the earmark records of her Democrat and Republican senate rivals for the presidency, Sen. John McCain, a longtime foe of earmarks who has called for eliminating what he dubs “wasteful Washington spending,” and Democratic front-runner Sen. Barack Obama, who has has spurned earmarks and is seeking no funds for pet projects in the upcoming fiscal year.
Obama has released all the earmark requests he offered since being elected to the Senate in 2004, The Hill reported, which totaled roughly $740 million over three years. Obama has also criticized Clinton for not disclosing her requests. Her office would not say how much she requested in previous years.
Obama has released all the earmark requests he offered since being elected to the Senate in 2004, which totaled roughly $740 million over three years, according to The Hill.
According to The Hill, the total amount Clinton is seeking far exceeds the $837 million secured last year by Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, who took home the largest dollar amount of earmarks in the current fiscal year’s spending bills. In those bills, the Hill notes, Clinton secured $342 million in earmarks.
Clinton's staff claims the money is needed for homeland security, emergency response and health projects throughout New York, according to documents her office provided.
Steve Ellis, a vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group critical of earmarks, told The Hill that the amount is not unusual for a senator hailing from a big state who has long secured pet projects.
“For her to all of a sudden change course would look opportunistic,” Ellis said. “There’s a decent chance that she is going to remain the senator from New York, and she needs to do what she can to stay the senator from New York.”
Among the projects Clinton is pushing is an additional $750 million for a homeland-state grant program and another $125 million for an urban-area security initiative in the upcoming homeland security appropriations bill. But it does not say which projects the grants would pay for.
Her office justified the requests, telling The Hill that money is needed after a “staggering” reduction in the Bush administration’s budget proposal that left states and localities “ill prepared to prevent another major terrorist attack.”
In addition, she's asking for grants of up to $400 million for interoperable emergency communication, $335 million for emergency planning, $190 million for port security and $225 million for transit security.
The senator also wants the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee to add $10 million to bolster the nation’s emergency 911 network and defense appropriators to add $3.2 million for a program geared toward transitioning members of the National Guard to the construction industry.
In the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education funding bill, Clinton asks for $231 million to go toward monitoring the health of people affected by the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Clinton, told The Hill that some of the funding for first responders and homeland security is based on need and risk, so New York would receive a portion of the money but so would other parts of the country.
“The funds requested are for critical needs for New York and America, and are appropriate and necessary,” Reines added.
Earmarks take on added importance in the election year, The Hill observed, as lawmakers point to the pet projects to tout their effectiveness in Congress. But they have been caught in the roiling debate over whether earmarks are a waste of taxpayer dollars, a debate that has intensified after pet projects have been linked to corruption cases in Congress.
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