GOP swing-vote senators have $1.1 billion in omnibus earmark requests

Five of the six senators are still considering whether to support the omnibus spending bill.


The Senate’s omnibus spending bill includes $1.1 billion in earmarks requested by six GOP senators seen as swing votes on the 1,924-page bill, according to an analysis by The Hill. 

Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.) all have earmark requests included in the legislation, which is opposed by Republican leaders.

The legislation also includes earmarks requested by Republican senators who say they will now vote against the bill.

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Cochran helped write the omnibus with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), and the other four members are said to be considering the legislation. Bond and Voinovich are retiring at the end of this Congress.

A sixth Republican, Sen Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who was defeated at his state’s GOP convention and will not be in the next Senate, has already said he will vote for the bill.

At least two Republicans will have to vote for the omnibus for it to move through the Senate, assuming all 58 Democrats and independents who caucus with Democrats support it. Supporters will probably need more than two GOP votes; Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a staunch earmark opponent, has announced she’ll oppose the bill, and other Democrats could follow.

The bill includes $8 billion in earmarks, according to Senate Appropriations Committee staff. The Hill totaled earmark requests for each of the swing-vote senators by reviewing earmark disclosure charts released by the panel. The totals include earmarks for projects within and outside the individual senator’s state.

Cochran has $512 million in earmarks in the bill, including $162 million in defense earmarks and $111 million in energy sector earmarks.

Cochran’s earmarks include the largest earmark in the bill, $34.9 million for Delta Health Alliance, Inc. He has also set aside $17 million for the Stennis Space Center, $21.7 million for a Gulf Coast weapons test facility and $20.8 million for a Homeland Security center.

Most of Cochran’s earmarks have been requested in conjunction with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who will vote against the bill, spokesman Rick Curtsinger said Thursday. The earmark requests were made before Wicker decided to support a GOP earmark ban in November, Curtsinger said.

The $512 million in earmarks is actually much less than what Cochran requested, according to a review by Taxpayers for Common Sense. The review states he requested $2.4 billion in earmarks, according to requests released by the committee. Cochran has not announced his final vote on the bill, his office said Thursday.

The $512 million in earmarks is actually much less than what Cochran requested, according to a review of committee data by Taxpayers for Common Sense, which said the senator he requested $2.4 billion in earmarks.

Voinovich has $98 million in requested earmarks in the bill. The largest request is $21 million for a Coast Guard station in Cleveland. He has also sought $7.3 million to replace a security forces complex at Toledo’s airport. His office said Voinovich has not yet made a decision on his vote for the omnibus.

“Good, targeted and transparent earmarks can be the yeast that raises the dough,” Voinovich said in an e-mailed statement. “As a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, I sought funding for worthy projects to help get Ohio’s economy back on track and cultivate jobs.”

Murkowski has $80 million in requested earmarks, including $8.75 million for educational exchanges with whaling partners. Rob Dillon, the minority spokesperson for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said this week that ranking member Murkowski may vote for the bill despite a delay in offshore oil-and-gas drilling permits included in the omnibus. 

Collins has $114 million in earmark requests. The largest is a national earmark, $25.6 million for the Department of Education’s National Writing Project. Her earmarks also include $10 million for the National Center for Deepwater Offshore Wind Research in Maine. Collins’s office on Wednesday said she was still deciding on how she will vote.

Bond has $102 million in earmark requests, the largest being $13.8 million for a regional training institute at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. He has also requested $4.9 million for a Kansas City industrial park. His office said Wednesday the senator had not yet decided how he would vote.

The bill includes $226 million in earmarks requested by Bennett, who told The Hill he would support the omnibus.

Bennett has $54 million in defense earmarks, and $80 million for labor, education and health earmarks. The largest in Utah is $22.5 million for an army corps of engineers project in an unspecified rural area.

“I joined with my Republican colleagues on the Appropriations Committee this summer to see to it that discretionary spending in the omnibus was reduced to appropriate levels, and the chairman has proposed a bill that has done so,” Bennett said in an e-mailed statement. “Now it is the responsibility of the Congress to pass a functional budget to keep the government funded and running smoothly. A continuing resolution would prevent federal agencies from planning well. The last thing Americans need coming out of Washington is more uncertainty."