Senate Just Can’t Resist a Sprinkling of Earmarks

Some habits are hard to break.

Despite President Obama’s urging that Congress avoid earmarks in a pending war spending bill, the $91.3 billion measure headed for the Senate floor Tuesday includes a sprinkling of funding provisions for individual lawmakers.

Most prominent is a $489 million set-aside for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help restore Mississippi’s barrier islands, which were heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The money was sought by the state’s two Republican senators, ranking Appropriations Committee member Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker .

The bill would require no local matching funds because the islands are a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and are owned and managed by the Interior Department. Cochran actually requested a total of $1.2 billion — more than twice the amount included in the bill. In last year’s war supplemental, Cochran initially won inclusion of $348 million for Corps of Engineers barrier island restoration efforts, but that funding was dropped from the final version.

To date, no federal funds have been provided to fortify those barrier islands, which help protect the state’s coast from storms. State officials say the islands are to Mississippi what levees are to New Orleans.

Cochran also won a $49 million earmark to repair hurricane damage and make other improvements to a Mississippi Army ammunitions plant. Ownership of that property is scheduled to be transferred to an adjacent NASA facility at the end of 2011.

CQ Politics