The message was clear: Any member who opposes our corrupt system of favors and earmarks becomes persona non grata with the appropriations committee and his pork-barreling colleagues. It is, naturally, out of the question for such an uncooperative member to get his own earmarks. McHenry was humiliated but given a lesson on congressional power.Here's more:
Earmarks: As the immigration bill in the Senate dominated the headlines, a fierce and nasty personal battle over earmarks had erupted on the House side. The message in the death of one particular earmark was that congressmen love their pork -- fight against our system and you don't get to participate.
1. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), as has become his custom, had proposed a series of amendments striking earmarks from the Interior and Financial Services appropriations bills. Each of these failed miserably, garnering at most around 100 votes. Flake's amendments to eliminate funding for subsidies to Washington's Barracks Row, "business incubators" in various regions, an urban planning center, a conference center and an airport commission, among others, lost by a huge margins.
2. But one anti-earmark amendment succeeded. The member punished for his fight against earmarks was Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a young conservative firebrand in his second term representing a district in Western North Carolina. McHenry had sealed the deal for himself with his fight to make earmarks more transparent, but he headed to the House floor to defend from one of Flake's amendments a $129,000 grant to the Perfect Christmas Tree project in Mitchell County, North Carolina.
3.Flake, stating openly that he expected this earmark-killing amendment to be defeated like all the others, acknowledged the poor economic conditions in Mitchell County, but held firm that need for federal intervention was dubious. "If this project is [already] successful, does it still need taxpayer assistance?" McHenry spoke of First Lady Laura Bush's support for the program, even adding to the record a feel-good USA Today piece about the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree Initiative.
4. Financial Services Chairman Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) was full of irony when he rose in support of McHenry's earmark, chiding him for finally finding an earmark he liked. Serrano said that he realized that McHenry was attempting to help his struggling district. But Serrano's tongue-in-cheek support did little good for McHenry or the other North Carolina congressmen defending the Perfect Christmas Tree. It took McHenry very much by surprise when Flake's amendment passed by a large margin, 249 to 174, with support from more than 140 Democrats who had never previously dreamed of voting against any earmark.
5.The message was clear: Any member who opposes our corrupt system of favors and earmarks becomes persona non grata with the appropriations committee and his pork-barreling colleagues. It is, naturally, out of the question for such an uncooperative member to get his own earmarks. McHenry was humiliated but given a lesson on congressional power.