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Waters Tries to Rally Colleagues’ Support in Fight Over Earmark

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is trying to rally colleagues to her side in her fight with Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) over an earmark request — a scrap that turned physical on the House floor Thursday night.Waters office on Friday was circulating to Congressional offices an e-mail explaining its version of the events. The California lawmaker is attempting to make the case that an employment center in her district deserves the $1 million earmark that she is seeking, despite the fact that Obey is trying to ban “monuments to me— in funding project requests this year.The Waters-Obey dispute prompted a shoving match between the pair on the House floor early Thursday evening that ended with Obey raising his voice and bellowing, “I’m not going to approve that earmark!—After reports of the incident by Roll Call and other publications, Michael Levin, Waters’ communication director, on Friday circulated background on the scuffle to Congressional offices. “While, perhaps understandably, the focus of these articles was on their interaction, the heart of the matter is an important policy consideration,— Levin wrote. “Congresswoman Waters would like to bring this to the attention of all of her colleagues.—The following background material presents Waters’ account. She said when she asked Obey on Thursday why he is denying her request, he “angrily replied, I am not going to fund your request because you are attempting to circumvent my rule not to fund any project named after a Member.’—Waters argued that the funding would serve an official program in the poorest part of her district — and the nation — and that the center was named for her before she got to Congress.“At a time when unemployment in California and nationally is at record highs, and the recession is more like a depression for the Black and Latino residents of Watts, it seems we would want to fund and support a successful program like the [Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center], which is a national model for employment training opportunities,— Waters wrote. She said she made the case to Obey that it was unfair to fund private, affluent schools and other groups while denying a successful program serving an impoverished community.“Chairman Obey was angry, and shouted that he didn’t care about my plea,— she wrote, adding that Obey made it clear he would not fund the request “and an angry exchange ensued between us.—“I will continue to advocate for what is right and fair for both my district and the country,— Waters said. “The earmark process is arbitrary and favors projects advanced by high-paid lobbyists, and this is a prime example of how the system often works against the well-being of the poorest and neediest people in our country.”

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