17 Republicans joined the Democrats in passing the plan that had been worked out by negotiators from both parties. McCain and Flake both indicated in advance of the Thursday night vote that they would not support it, primarily because of some of the wasteful spending contained in it.
Early in the day, Flake was interviewed on NPR's Here & Now program, and tried to distinguish what happens in omnibus bills like this from the earmarks of days gone by that he successfully railed against:
The full transcript of the interview is below the jump, but here is a key portion:
HOBSON: Well, the other thing that some people may look at is these things that I know nobody's calling earmarks, but they certainly look a lot like earmarks.McCain prepared statements to speak on the floor to express his several concerns with the plan: “With our country facing a rapidly growing $17.3 trillion dollar debt, which amounts to more than $54,000 per citizen, it is time for Congress to return to ‘regular order’ and consider each one of the 12 individual appropriations bills in turn to fund the activities of our government before the end of the fiscal year – with ample time for debate and amendment, instead of ramming through massive 1,582 page Omnibus appropriation bills like the one before us today. The American taxpayer expects more and deserves better than what we are giving them in this bill."
FLAKE: Yeah, fortunately over the past couple of years we have banned the practice of earmarking, ostensibly. There are still things that look a lot like earmarking, like you say. The truth is that the, you know, in its heyday back in 2005, 2006, there was some 16,000 earmarks, about $40 billion worth spread across the appropriation bills. So the practice has been largely marginalized, at least, and that's a good thing.
But a lot of the programs that grew up during the earmark era just continue in these agencies and have continued in the president's budget or directed by congressmen.
HOBSON: Well, what do you call what's in this bill, if they're not earmarks?
FLAKE: Well, directed funding I guess you would say. People in position on the appropriations committees are in a position to more easily make sure their programs of choice continue to get funding. But it has, like I said, it's been marginalized largely. There's far, far, far less of it that's happening now. And, you know, sometimes it takes the form of letter-marking or calling the agencies, asking them to continue funding. And, you know, the agencies know who butters their bread, too. And so they're not wanting to go against any direction from appropriators.
The rest of his statement is below the jump. Arizona's Politics could not locate the video on C-Span's feed this morning, and suspects that he did not end up delivering them. However, at the beginning of the day, he did rip into the Senators who put the omnibus bill together for allowing "secret provision" that deals with shifting the drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon. An article on the front page of yesterday's Washington Post had called his attention to it.
- “$65 million for Pacific Coast salmon restoration for states including Nevada, a program that even President Obama has called duplicative and mocked in his 2011 State of the Union address.
- “$80 million in additional funding for Amtrak which continues to operate in the red year after year.
- “$15 million for an ‘incentive program’ that directs DoD to overpay on contracts by an additional 5% if the contractor is a Native Hawaiian-owned company. (25 USC § 1544)
- “Language that makes it easier for the DoD to enter into no-bid contracts for studies, analysis, and unsolicited proposals. The language in the bill makes it ripe for wasteful spending and earmarks for pet projects. For example, DoD may eliminate competition and use a no-bid contract for a ‘product of original thinking and was submitted in confidence by one source.’ With the Department facing cuts now and into the future, this type of vague language could lead to costly wasteful spending on programs that DoD neither needs or can afford.
- “$600,000 for program at Mississippi State University to research how to grow trees faster for replanting after hurricanes.
- “Numerous ‘Buy America’ provisions that hurt competition and innovation, drive-up the costs of procurement and further increases the taxpayer burden.
- “$10 million for the USDA High Energy Cost Grants program that go to subsidize electricity bills in Alaska and Hawaii.
- “$10 million for a DoD Youth Challenge program that was neither requested by the president nor authorized to receive funding in the FY14 NDAA.
- “$3.3 million increase in the STARBASE Program. According to the Internet, this ‘nice-to-have’ but not ‘necessary-to-have’ program ‘focuses on elementary students, primarily fifth graders. The program’s goal is to motivate these students to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as they continue their education… Military volunteers apply abstract principles to real world situations by leading tours and giving lectures on the use of STEM in different settings and careers.’ With a war going on and budget crisis at our doorstep, this is how we elect to spend our increasingly scarce defense dollars? We should leave the education of our children to our teachers and parents and not our military.
- “$7.7 million increase for the Civil Air Program (CAP). CAP is a volunteer organization that provides aerospace education to young people, runs a junior cadet program, and assists when possible in providing emergency services. Its members are hard-working and we are grateful for their volunteerism. This year, as in the past, the Senate Armed Services Committee authorized CAP funding. However, CAP is auxiliary and thus should not be funded given the need for the military to tighten its purse strings and fund programs that are a priority to our national defense, not auxiliary.
- “The bill also includes $375 million for Army, Navy and Air Force ‘alternative energy research’ initiatives. As I have stated in the past, this type of research has yielded such shining examples as the Department of the Navy’s purchase of 450,000 gallons of alternative fuels for $12 million (over $26 per gallon).
- “Over $460 million in funding for the Defense Department to do research dealing with research for Alzheimer, autism, prostate and ovarian cancer, HIV/AIDS and numerous other diseases and illnesses. While this type of research is important, it should not be funded by DoD. It should, instead, be funded by the National Institutes of Health, the budget of which this bill more than doubles over last year’s.