More big-money pet projects from US lawmakers revealed: Restroom renovations, tree-planting and more
House lawmakers are looking to sweeten President Biden's infrastructure package; Hillary Vaughn reports from Capitol Hill.
The latest requests include funding for public bathroom renovations, monuments to celebrate Black culture and homeless encampments in California.
Fox News has dug into the billions of dollars of pet pork projects that lawmakers have made public this week and has been highlighting some interesting finds.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., wants $3 million to renovate 26 public restrooms at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations in Alameda County. She also requested $1 million for "trash capture devices" throughout San Leandro, Calif.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif, requested $3 million to renovate 26 public restrooms as part of the 2022 earmark requests in Congress.
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., has requested $1 million for infrastructure, public artworks and monuments to celebrate Black culture in Los Angeles along Crenshaw Boulevard.
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., put in requests for various projects to help the homeless in Los Angeles County, including $1 million for homeless encampment infrastructure in the city of Torrance. The money would help four encampments install "wrought iron fencing, hazardous waste removal and landscaping."
And Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., wants $500,000 for murals and lights in Trenton and another $625,000 to plant ash trees in Mercer County to replace those lost by the emerald ash borer infestation.
Coleman's office said the tree planting project is "a valuable use of taxpayer funds" to improve wildlife habitat, water quality and air quality. Ash tree loss "is a significant ecological and economic problem for Mercer County and the state of New Jersey," her office said.
In this image from video, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., speaks during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Lieu has requested $1 million in earmarks for homeless encampments in California. (Senate Television via AP) (AP)
All of these projects are just requests. The House Appropriations Committee will be reviewing the lawmakers' wish lists when putting together a spending plan for a vote in Congress.
Congressional earmarks were banned in 2011 when Republicans took control of the House during a Tea Party wave as an overall effort to cut down on wasteful spending and demonstrate fiscal discipline. But after a decade-long retreat, earmarks are back and Republicans and Democrats alike are requesting them.
About 75 percent of all House members have requested earmark funding for the upcoming 2022 budget. A total of 327 members of the House, including 221 Democrats and 106 Republicans, submitted earmark requests, according to the House Appropriations Committee.
In all, the requests totaled $9.6 billion worth of projects, with Democrats requesting earmarks worth $4.94 billion and Republicans wanting $4.7 billion in spending, according to an analysis by openthebooks.com.
Democrats announced strict transparency rules that require members of Congress to publicly post their funding requests and certify that neither they nor their family will benefit financially from the project. The House Appropriations Committee will also release a full list of the "community project funding" before the lawmakers consider the bill.
The rules also cap earmark spending at no more than 1 percent of the federal government's roughly $1.5 trillion discretionary budget.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., defended the return of earmarks on Thursday saying members of Congress, rather than the executive branch, are best equipped to determine what projects need the most funding in their districts.
"It is for the good of the community and we encourage people to have as much community support for a project as possible, and so I'm very proud of it," Pelosi said Thursday.