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GOP omnibus opponents bring home billions of earmarked dollars

‘No’ votes included the two Republicans with the largest earmark hauls in the House

GOP Rep. Randy Weber of Texas, who secured $287.5 million in earmarks, was among the lawmakers who voted against the omnibus spending measure.
GOP Rep. Randy Weber of Texas, who secured $287.5 million in earmarks, was among the lawmakers who voted against the omnibus spending measure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Corrected 7:52 p.m. | Lawmakers who voted against the massive omnibus spending package that’s headed for President Joe Biden’s desk secured $3 billion worth of earmarks in the 4,126-page behemoth, a CQ Roll Call tally found, or about one-fifth of all the measure’s home-state projects.

Almost all of that haul goes to Republicans, although New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — the only Democrat in either chamber to vote “no” — accounts for just under $20 million. Another House Democrat, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, voted “present”; she procured nearly $16 million.

Most of the earmarked funds secured by opponents of the bill, about $2.8 billion worth, were sponsored or co-sponsored by 110 House Republicans. Only nine House Republicans supported the measure, and one was absent for the vote: West Virginia Rep. David B. McKinley, who lost his primary to fellow GOP Rep. Alex X. Mooney. All 10 of those Republicans got earmarks in the package.

The two House Republicans with by far the largest hauls in the chamber, ranking in the top 10 for the entire Congress, voted against the bill. That’s Randy Weber of Texas, with $287.5 million, and Michael Waltz of Florida, with $169.4 million.

Waltz was among the 16 House Republicans from Florida, which stands to receive emergency disaster aid for hurricane recovery, who voted against the bill. Of those, 11 sponsored earmarks worth a combined $404 million.

Florida GOP Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, neither of whom asked for earmarks, also voted against the package. Before Senate passage, Scott asked for a vote on his bill to break the disaster aid supplemental out of the broader legislation and pass it separately, but was soundly defeated.

Several Republican earmarkers who are currently ranking members on Appropriations subcommittees, putting them in line to be “cardinals” next year when the GOP assumes control, also voted “no.”

They include Harold Rogers of Kentucky, the former full committee chairman who initially voted for the measure before flipping his vote. He got $47.6 million in the package.

Others include Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama; Tom Cole of Oklahoma; Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida; John Carter of Texas; Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee; Ken Calvert of California; Mike Simpson of Idaho and David Joyce of Ohio.

Among the current GOP ranking members on Appropriations, only Steve Womack of Arkansas and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, both of whom got earmarks, voted for the omnibus. Herrera Beutler lost her primary and won’t be returning next year.

Kay Granger, R-Texas, the full committee’s ranking member who will be chair in the next Congress, opposed the bill and did not seek any earmarks.

Contested races

Republicans who are in contested races to chair key committees next year voted against the package, including some who secured earmarks.

The most closely watched race is probably Ways and Means, often labeled the most powerful panel in the chamber due to its far-reaching jurisdiction over tax, health care and trade policy.

Of the three candidates, all of whom voted against the omnibus, Florida’s Vern Buchanan secured 11 projects for $16.5 million and Nebraska’s Adrian Smith got two earmarks totaling $2 million. Missouri Rep. Jason Smith, the other contender in the race, didn’t ask for earmarks.

The Budget panel slot is also up for grabs. Jason Smith is currently the top Republican, but even if he loses the Ways and Means race he faces potential challenges from Texas Rep. Jodey C. Arrington and Georgia’s Earl L. “Buddy” Carter.

Both Arrington and Carter voted “no” on the omnibus but were awarded earmarks totaling $37.4 million in Carter’s case and $5.6 million in Arrington’s. The other Budget candidate, Lloyd K. Smucker of Pennsylvania, didn’t ask for earmarks and also voted against the measure.

Several Republicans who were in town for the vote on Friday and went to the floor to speak against the bill all secured earmarks, including Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania, Tim Burchett of Tennessee and Clay Higgins of Louisiana.

House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., also pointed out that legislation Higgins authored, which would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to cover the cost of medical foster home care as an alternative to nursing homes, was included in the final package.

A trio of Senate Republicans who voted “no” were awarded $391 million worth of earmarks in the package, including solo and joint requests with House opponents: Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, Mississippi’s Cindy Hyde-Smith and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis.

Cassidy’s name went alongside a total of $250 million worth of earmarks, with some big ones including $61 million to finish building a joint operations center at Fort Polk and $31 million for a major flood control project in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

Cassidy also pushed for and helped win adoption of an amendment to the massive spending bill to add legislation he co-authored that would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against, and require them to provide accommodations for, pregnant women.

The total amount of earmarked funds secured by omnibus opponents has been corrected in this report.

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