The $410 billion appropriations bill that cleared the Senate
on Tuesday contains millions of dollars in tribal and Alaska Native
earmarks, including some requested by lawmakers who didn't support
the massive package.
Rep. Tom Cole
(R-Oklahoma), a member of the Chickasaw Nation
sought money for a water project to benefit a new
hospital built by his tribe and for the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum
in Oklahoma City.
The bill earmarks $785,000 for the two requests even though Cole voted against the bill when it passed the House on
Rep. Denny Rehberg
R-Montana) also voted against the bill.
But he requested, and received, $238,000 for the Salish Kootenai College
on the Flathead Reservation, just one of
several of his earmarks to win approval.
On the Senate side, Sen. Lisa Murkowski
opposed further consideration of the bill when it came up for a vote yesterday. But the package includes
$1.427 million she requested for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
$1.475 million for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation
and $285,000 for the Cook Inlet Tribal Council
Not all Republicans who sought earmarks opposed the package, however.
Rep. Don Young
(R-Alaska) supported millions of
dollars in earmarks for Alaska Native programs and he was
one of just 16 members of his party who voted for the
Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act
that President Barack Obama
is getting ready to sign.
Despite Obama's expected support, the new president is laying
out some guidelines today on earmarks, whose presence
has largely been a political problem for Republicans.
Even some Democrats are questioning the billions of dollars
in "pork" in the annual appropriations bills.
Obama too questioned the large number of earmarks in the bill, which
funds nearly every single federal agency.
"Although it's not perfect, the president will sign the legislation but
demonstrate for all involved rules moving forward that he thinks can
make this process work a little bit better," White House press secretary
Robert Gibbs said today.
After Sen. John McCain
(R-Arizona), the two-time former chairman of
the Senate Indian Affairs Committee
, started his anti-earmark
crusade a few years ago, tribal leaders were surprised to learn that some of
their most cherished programs were in fact considered earmarks.
Certain tribal colleges, for example, have survived due
to special provisions in appropriations bills.
Sen. Tom Coburn
(R-Oklahoma), another prominent member of the
Indian Affairs Committee, has continued to rail against earmarks
but neither political party is willing to give them up.
He calls earmarks the "gateway drug" to "spending addiction" but
his McCain-backed efforts to strip the bill of the projects were
rejected earlier this week.
"Instead of draining the swamp, Congress is protecting the polluters," Coburn
said this week.
FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act:H.R.1105
and Explanatory Statement
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