Senior Republican appropriators in the Senate have collected more money in earmarks than any other members of Congress, even though President Bush and GOP leaders have forcefully criticized "pork-barrel spending."
Not only have these lawmakers defied their leaders, they have also taken a much greater share of the pot set aside for rank-and-file Republicans than have senior Democrats. As a result, some on the Hill are grumbling privately that GOP appropriators are "not only the kings of pork, they're outright hogs," in the words of one Senate Republican aide.
But Republican appropriators argue they are following the rules, that their work is open to public scrutiny, and that they are taking care of their constituents' needs. They also say that Bush is holding them to a double standard by submitting to Congress specific spending requests while deriding lawmakers' spending priorities as wasteful earmarks.
Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.), ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has collected $774 million worth of earmarks in 12 spending bills. After Cochran, Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska), the second-ranking Republican on Appropriations, secured more money for special projects than any other member of Congress: $502 million.
Rep. Bill Young (Fla.), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, is the second-biggest recipient of earmarked funds in the House, securing $161 million. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the subcommittee's chairman, secured $162 million in funds.
Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan group that tracks earmarks and federal spending, compiled the figures.
The Republicans' status as the biggest earmark winners in Congress is surprising because they no longer enjoy majority control. As a result, they have seen their share of the federal spending pie sliced by a third.