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Oberstar Drops GOP Project Requests From WRDA Bill

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (Minn.) told about 90 Republican Members on Tuesday that he plans to disregard their earmark requests as he moves to mark up a Water Resources Development Act reauthorization next week.

House Republicans in March established a unilateral ban on all earmarks, but Oberstar said in May that more than 100 Republicans still had earmark requests pending in the WRDA bill, requests that had been submitted before the ban was announced.

That prompted a letter from ranking member John Mica (R-Fla.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) asking Oberstar to disregard all Republican earmark requests, even if the sponsors did not directly contact him requesting withdrawal of their projects. Republicans have said that most Members filed withdrawal letters to Mica, and that he was planning to deliver those letters to Oberstar.

On Tuesday, Oberstar wrote to the 90 or so Republicans who have not individually withdrawn their requests, saying that he would comply with the Boehner/Mica request to ax their projects, even though he called it unprecedented.

“In the long history of this committee, there is no precedent for party leadership to act on behalf of, or to override the will of, individual members,” Oberstar wrote. Nevertheless, “in view of the letter from Republican leaders, I will consider your requests to be withdrawn.”

Oberstar said Members can reinstate their requests by submitting a letter reaffirming support for the project by Friday.

A handful of GOP Members, including Rep. Don Young (Alaska) and Anh “Joseph” Cao (La.) have previously said they do not intend to be bound by the GOP earmark ban.

The WRDA bill includes projects such as dam and levee replacements, beach replenishment, drainage upgrades and water treatment facilities. Committee staff said this spring that there were about 5,000 Democratic project requests and about 1,500 Republican project requests submitted overall before both parties established limits on earmarks.

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