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Red states’ revenge evident in House earmarks distribution

Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma among big winners in member-directed spending

Thanks to Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., his home state would take home the most per capita earmarked funds of any state in House spending bills.
Thanks to Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., his home state would take home the most per capita earmarked funds of any state in House spending bills. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The majority of states would lose earmarked funds in the House GOP-drafted appropriations bills compared with the versions House Democrats wrote last year. But 16 mostly deep-red states would come out ahead.

The lucky 16 would see their haul grow by over $915 million — leaving the rest to see nearly $1.8 billion evaporate, a CQ Roll Call analysis found.

Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma combined account for over half of the increase, boosting their share of earmarks in the fiscal 2024 bills to 10 percent, compared with less than 3 percent a year earlier.

Despite some shifts under the 2020 census, the Big Four states in terms of population are still the Big Four when it comes to earmarks: California, Texas, Florida and New York, in that order. But those states’ share of earmarks would drop from 39 percent to 34 percent under House GOP control, shedding a combined $691 million. 

Deep-blue California and New York each lost a House seat due to redistricting.

California — which swapped a Democratic speaker and earmark backer, Nancy Pelosi, for Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who doesn’t earmark — would see its “community project funding” drop by $335 million under the new House bills compared with the fiscal 2023 versions authored by House Democrats last year. 

Despite that 28 percent decline, to $858 million, California is still No. 1 among states in total earmarks.

New York’s total would drop by 17 percent, to $426 million — still No. 4 — in part because the state’s GOP delegation swelled after the midterms, including with vulnerable members who party leaders have showered with earmarks.

[Republicans hoover up earmarks in House appropriations bills]

Florida’s $489 million is good for No. 3, same as last year despite losing 30 percent of its earmarked dollars. The state’s delegation also tilted further to the GOP, though two of their four freshman Republicans don’t add much to the total: Aaron Bean doesn’t request earmarks, and Freedom Caucus stalwart Anna Paulina Luna asked for just two projects worth $3.4 million, receiving one for $2.5 million.

No. 2 Texas, the biggest gainer due to redistricting with two seats, would lose just over 7 percent of earmarked dollars, or $59 million, though its share of total earmarks would actually grow slightly given steeper declines elsewhere. And the Lone Star State delegation gained some earmarking prowess, particularly with freshman Monica De La Cruz in a seat that party leaders don’t view as totally safe. 

[House GOP tops list of earmark seekers under new regime]

But Texas’ haul took a hit because GOP leaders weren’t as generous to Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, as Democrats were last year. Weber secured less than one-fifth of his requests — still enough to put him No. 2 overall, with nearly $135 million — compared with last year when he received more than half, or $287.5 million.

Other losers are Illinois — which lost a House seat — and New Jersey, two more traditionally blue states. 

Illinois and New Jersey were ranked fifth and seventh for total earmarks in the House’s fiscal 2023 bills; they drop to eighth and 12th in the fiscal 2024 bills, respectively. Each lost over $100 million from year to year, a 28 percent cut for Illinois and 38 percent for New Jersey. 

The Garden State’s decline is no thanks to GOP Rep. Thomas H. Kean Jr., who’s improved upon his predecessor and former Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski’s earmark take by nearly $6 million. Kean’s 2024 race is ranked a Toss-up by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

Pennsylvania, more of a swing state in recent years, fell from sixth to seventh place with a nearly 18 percent cut in their earmarked funds, after losing a seat to redistricting.

Another way to look at winners and losers is per capita share of earmarked funds, which adjusts for population size.

California dropped from 10th among states in the fiscal 2023 bills, with $30.45 in earmarks per person, to 20th in the fiscal 2024 bills with $21.88. New Jersey fell from sixth to 29th, a loss of $12.07 per resident.

Connecticut, another deep blue state, has a smaller population but once punched above its weight in earmarks, thanks in part to then-House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. 

Connecticut ranked 19th in total earmarks last year despite having the 29th-largest population. In the fiscal 2024 bills, Connecticut drops to 33rd, a loss of nearly $20 per person. Connecticut lawmakers’ earmark total dropped by over 54 percent, or $72 million.

Some GOP states lose

Not all the losers are in the blue column: Ruby red Louisiana would see its earmark total shaved by $83 million or 35 percent, for instance. 

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., accounts for a major chunk of that drop after downsizing his requests from a $61 million Fort Polk military construction project last year to $7 million for a Barksdale Air Force Base project this year.

South Carolina’s total would fall 70 percent, a nearly $35 million loss due to the reduced clout of its delegation’s dean, Rep. James E. Clyburn

Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat and majority whip under Democratic control, secured nearly $50 million out of his $91.7 million worth of fiscal 2023 requests in the House bills. Now in the minority at No. 4 within the Democratic leadership, Clyburn got just $14.8 million out of his $80 million in requests in the House’s fiscal 2024 bills. 

Indiana’s nearly 37 percent drop is similarly due to Democrats’ lost clout; the only two earmarkers from that state are Democratic Reps. Andre Carson and Frank J. Mrvan. They secured nearly $15 million less than a year earlier.

West Virginia shed one seat to redistricting — former GOP Rep. David McKinley, an earmarker who lost the primary to a non-earmarker, Republican Rep. Alex X. Mooney. The state’s total would drop by about $25 million, or 66 percent.

Missouri lost GOP earmarker Billy Long, who unsuccessfully ran for Senate, contributing to a $52 million or 30 percent drop for his state.

Mississippi’s total declined slightly — by $8 million, or 9 percent — though not for obvious reasons.

The big winners

Last year at this time, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas were nowhere near the top of the House earmark rankings. 

In the fiscal 2024 bills, Tennessee — with the 15th largest population — jumps to No. 5 for total earmarks, behind only the Big Four states.

Oklahoma, with the 28th largest population, is now No. 11. Arkansas, with the 33rd largest population, is 15th.

None were in the top 20 last year.

In per capita earmarks, only Tennessee last year made it into the top 30, with $21.16 per resident. This year, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee are ranked first, second and third, in that order — the only states to top $50 in per capita earmarks.

The major difference-maker was the 2022 midterms vaulting Republicans into the majority. But it also took some large earmarking appetites in those delegations.

House Energy-Water Appropriations Chairman Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., propelled his state into the top tier with $236.8 million for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Chickamauga Lock replacement project. He’s now the top earmarker in the House, having increased his total nearly tenfold over last year.

Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., isn’t on Appropriations, but as a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member has overseen the Army Corps. 

Crawford didn’t earmark much a year ago — just $10 million. But as with Fleischmann, potentially catastrophic damage to river navigation in his part of the state could have devastating economic impacts, leading Crawford to request over $161 million for the massive McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River project. 

Fleischmann’s bill makes $107.3 million available for the project, which combined with $14 million for other projects pushes Crawford up to No. 3 in the rankings.

The Arkansas River navigation channel runs into Oklahoma where it terminates outside of Tulsa. Fleischmann added another $25 million for the McClellan-Kerr project at the behest of Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., helping boost her into the top 10 this year. 

Bice got some additional help from House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., who added $27.6 million for her projects in his bill — along with $83 million of his own. Cole overall is No. 4 in the rankings this year.

North Carolina, the 9th most populous state, last year was 18th in total earmarks. This year, the Tar Heel state jumps to No. 9.

North Carolina gained a seat in redistricting, gained three freshman earmarkers — one Republican and two Democrats — and gained a more senior leadership figure in Rep. Richard Hudson, now the No. 5 House Republican.

Last year, Hudson sought $36 million for a child development center at the Army’s Fort Bragg; Democrats included one-tenth of that request in their Military Construction-VA bill. This year, GOP appropriators included the full $36 million plus $61 million for a Fort Bragg aircraft maintenance hangar, enough to make Hudson the fifth-ranking earmarker.

Another winner is Idaho, which would see its earmarked dollars, share and per capita amount more than double from a year earlier. That’s due to the increased clout of new Interior-Environment Appropriations Chairman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, the seventh-largest earmarker.

Alaska gained funds because former Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, died before he could request projects last year. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, didn’t assume Young’s at-large seat until after the House bills were written; she got $12 million in the fiscal 2024 bills.

Montana’s total grew because the state gained a seat that’s occupied by Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, an Appropriations panel member who secured $35 million in the House bills.

Wyoming, the least-populous state, remains near the bottom at less than $15 million in earmarks. But it jumped to 13th per capita, thanks to freshman GOP Rep. Harriet M. Hageman, who knocked off former Rep. Liz Cheney in the primary last year in what became a referendum on Cheney’s criticism of former President Donald Trump.

Aside from North Carolina, which voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, the only other states gaining earmarked funds that backed a Democrat in any presidential election this century are Georgia, Iowa and Ohio. 

The remaining states gaining earmarked dollars in the House’s fiscal 2024 bills are Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska and Utah. 

The Dakotas’ at-large representatives didn’t seek earmarks in either year.

Herb Jackson contributed to this story.

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