Texas duo top list of House appropriations earmark requests
Asks by Beth Van Duyne and Colin Allred for DFW airport total nearly $234 million
Two Dallas-area House lawmakers — one Republican, one Democrat — top the list of total earmark dollars requested in fiscal 2022 spending bills, according to data compiled by the House Appropriations Committee.
GOP Rep. Beth Van Duyne and Democrat Colin Allred rank first and second, in that order, thanks to two Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport requests totaling nearly $234 million.
One DFW request the two lawmakers share would provide $135.9 million to replace four aging ramps passengers use to get to the terminals and parking areas, and another $98 million would go toward a new utility plant to power the airport.
Texas districts will be redrawn by the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature this year to accommodate census results, which saw the Lone Star state gaining two seats. But the region Allred and Van Duyne represent has seen a shift toward Democrats in recent elections, and both will be in the opposing party’s crosshairs for 2022.
Allred, a second-term Democrat, is already on the GOP’s target list; Democrats included him in their Frontline program to protect vulnerable incumbents.
His 32nd District has been trending Democratic, swinging from a nearly 16-point loss for Barack Obama in 2012 to a 10-point win for Joe Biden last year, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections. But Republicans have been eyeing this seat since Allred ousted longtime GOP Rep. Pete Sessions — who’s now back representing the 17th District — in 2018.
Van Duyne is a freshman who eked out a 1.3-point win last fall with less than 50 percent of the vote to succeed former GOP Rep. Kenny Marchant in the 24th District.
Her district has seen an even sharper, 27-point swing toward Democratic presidential candidates since 2012, with Biden winning by more than 5 points. Democrats view the former Trump administration housing official, an outspoken conservative who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential results, as too extreme for her suburban constituents.
Even without the two DFW airport requests she shares with Allred, Van Duyne would rank third for total earmark requests. Allred, on the other hand, would be toward the bottom of the pack at $7.2 million.
The figures compiled by the Appropriations panel don’t include requests submitted to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for a separate public works funding bill. House Transportation leaders released their list of project requests Tuesday afternoon, with Democrats making up two-thirds of the members participating.
Other projects at DFW, a major North Texas economic driver, account for most of Van Duyne’s $120.6 million in remaining requests. That figure alone would put her behind only Nebraska Republican Don Bacon, at $128.9 million, and Minnesota GOP Rep. Tom Emmer, at $125.7 million, on the overall list compiled by CQ Roll Call.
Bacon’s requests are dominated by one big one: $89.2 million for flood control projects in the Omaha metro area, home to about one-third of his state’s population.
His district has also swung toward Democrats in recent years, with Biden’s nearly 7-point win almost mirroring Obama’s 2012 loss. Bacon was first elected in 2016, squeaking by Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford, though he’s widened his advantage in the last two cycles.
Emmer leads the House GOP’s campaign arm and helped orchestrate Republicans’ 12-seat net gain in the 2020 elections.
His big requests include $44 million to rebuild a section of central Minnesota highway with a divider separating two-way traffic and build a nearby interchange; $25 million to expand a highway that runs from the Twin Cities into South Dakota; and $25 million for an additional lane on U.S. Highway 10 running through Coon Rapids, Minn. For the Coon Rapids project, Emmer posted a number of support letters, including from a local ammunition manufacturer and a golf club that rely on Highway 10.
Aside from Allred, the only other Democrat in the $100 million earmark requests club is Kansas’ Sharice Davids, who also flipped a GOP seat in 2018. Davids is also a member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s incumbent protection program.
Her major requests include $83 million for two Army Corps of Engineers projects, including $43 million for planning and design of a levee and floodwall system to protect residents of Merriam, Kan., and $40 million to reconstruct parts of a levee system protecting an industrial park on the banks of the Missouri River to allow maintenance access.
Allred and Davids are the only Democrats to crack the top 10 earmark dollar requesters. Other Democratic Frontline members in the top 20 include California’s Josh Harder and Wisconsin’s Ron Kind, who requested $47.9 million and $47.5 million, respectively.
If Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., dethrones Wyoming’s Liz Cheney for House GOP Conference chair this week as expected, Republicans will have traded in a lawmaker who didn’t ask for any earmarks for No. 18 on the list, at $46.1 million. The conference’s vice chairman, Louisiana’s Mike Johnson, is No. 6, with $91 million in requests.
Punching above their weight
Of the total $5.9 billion in earmarks requested so far, Republicans punch above their weight: They make up less than one-third of members requesting projects, but 45 percent of the total dollars. The median for Democrats was about $10.8 million worth of requests; for Republicans, around $15.9 million.
Other Republicans in the upper tier include Tennessee’s Chuck Fleischmann, ranking member on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, at No. 8 with $87.5 million; Oklahoma’s Tom Cole, top Republican on the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, No. 9 with $82.4 million; the top GOP Financial Services appropriator, Arkansas’ Steve Womack, who’s No. 10 with $74.8 million; and Energy and Commerce ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington at No. 11 with $54 million.
The highest-ranking Republican on the list, Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, is No. 45 with $27.9 million in requests. The highest-ranking Democrat is Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, at No. 17 with $47.1 million. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is way down at No. 131, with $14.1 million; Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., is two spots behind, with $13.7 million.
Appropriations Committee members overall requested a little less than $1.1 billion, about 18 percent of the total, or roughly in line with their representation among House earmark requesters. House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., requested $16.1 million, making her No. 101 on the list. The top GOP appropriator, Kay Granger of Texas, didn’t request any earmarks.
Among Democratic appropriators, Harder requested the most funding. The top requesters among Democratic “cardinals” are Military Construction-VA Subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, with $27.9 million, and Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee Chairman Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania — another Frontline member — at $27.6 million.
Only a handful of members asked for less than $1 million. One is Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations ranking member Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., though he can probably rely on retiring Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., the top Appropriations Republican in that chamber, to do some heavy lifting for their constituents.
The most modest sets of requests belong to Andy Kim, D-N.J. — a Frontline member who flipped a GOP seat in 2018, in a district Trump carried twice — and Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., a freshman from a safe San Diego-area district who succeeded Democrat Susan A. Davis. Kim and Jacobs asked for just $332,000 and $250,000, respectively.
In all, just under half of House Republicans requested appropriations earmarks, while only one Democrat declined: California’s Katie Porter.
Coming in below the line
The $5.9 billion requested so far for fiscal 2022 is on pace to come in well below DeLauro’s limit of 1 percent of discretionary spending, and that figure includes overlapping projects like the two big DFW requests.
Using President Joe Biden’s $1.5 trillion total appropriations request as a yardstick would mean a $15 billion earmark ceiling, and as DeLauro has informed lawmakers, “only a handful” of their requests may get funded.
Some subcommittee bills are more popular than others.
The Transportation-HUD measure is the most popular, with 1,079 requests for a total of $2.7 billion. Adjusting for the duplicative DFW projects, the total would still amount to over 3 percent of the measure’s overall fiscal 2021 discretionary allocation, for example, so there’s likely to be some disappointment.
By contrast, Defense subcommittee earmarks have come in so far at a paltry $32.2 million, out of a roughly $700 billion budget. The three-year average over fiscal years 2008 through 2010, when appropriators approved an average of $17.4 billion in earmarks each year, was $8.5 billion for the Defense bill, according to data compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense.