With great vexation, but with a deep understanding of the need for water development projects throughout our nation, I recently voted for H.R. 3080. This is the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, often referred to as WRRDA. Overall, this is an important bill, make no mistake about that.
My frustration is that it has within it, 23 (give or take) earmarks. And none of them are in Jackson, Clay, Saline, Ray, or Lafayette Counties. You may not see these projects claim the title of earmarks in the media, but do not be fooled: an earmark by any other name will be spent just as sweetly. I have been told by House Leadership that the 23 projects used to be called earmarks, before earmarks were prohibited. But they have now been -- transformed. I am not persuaded.
That's like cutting off the tail of an alligator, clipping some paper mache ears to his head and saying, "This used to be an alligator, but now it's a puppy."
Earmarks have been banned for years now, but they remain. They are now masquerading as angelic government. With that transformation, though, they are away from the inspection and evaluation of the taxpayer. For example, there was an earmark in the debt ceiling deal. It was a $2.1 billion authorization of funds for the Olmsted Dam Project in Kentucky. I am not upset that Sen. Mitch McConnell was able to get this project funded, but I would like to get $2.1 billion earmarked for the Transnational Research Project, which is being proposed in my district.
Please don't miss my point. I am not against earmarks. I have spoken in favor of them many times. What I am against, is this maze of political smoke and mirrors, that allows some areas to prosper from the newly named 'approval-worthy projects', while Missouri's Fifth District doesn't get funding for projects we need and deserve.
All duly-elected representatives of the people should have the same ability to work on behalf of our district, not simply the most senior or significant in status.
The public has been intentionally misinformed by some in this process, both pundits and politicians, that earmarks increase the deficit. Sometimes voters are so afraid of being taken in that they are vulnerable to being left out.
Contrary to what the public has been told by some, for instance, there's no such thing as a "bridge to nowhere". There is, however, a proposed Gravina Island Bridge. This bridge, if constructed, would replace the ferry that connects 50 residents of the islands to the Ketchikan International Airport. If your grandma is one of the residents there, and needs to get to the hospital, you might also agree that it's a good project. Or you might think it is a project that costs too much money. But the debate should be transparent, truthful, and complete with facts.
Before the earmark ban, in our own area, federal funding, in the way of earmarks, has been used to help victims of rape. Earmarks have been used for youth crime prevention programs. Earmarks have been used to implement job training programs. And earmarks have been used to rehabilitate the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site and the dazzling Kit Bond Bridge.
The public is never told by those who don't like earmarks that when their representative is forbidden from fighting for them, the Administration then gets that responsibility. There is no reason to believe that President Barack Obama, as smart as I know he is, understands better than I, the needs of Missouri's Fifth District.
It frustrates me to no end, that for some inside the Washington Beltway, Missouri is often considered "flyover" America. Territory that is likely to be 'forgotten' if there isn't someone fighting for it. Please understand that the Constitution grants Congress the power of the purse, and because the American public has been denied a public discussion on the matter of earmarks, this power has shifted to the President, and whoever is in the White House.
I want to be allowed to get in the ring and advocate strongly for the best interests of Missouri's Fifth District. I don't want politics and slight of hand to keep us from moving forward with projects we need here for our economic growth, stability, and safety. An earmark by any other name -- is still an earmark.