Feinstein secures nearly $1.1 billion for ‘pet projects’ in funding bills following death

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died last year, secured nearly $1.1 billion in earmarks, known as community project funding, which direct federal dollars to specific “pet projects” in members’ home states and districts. 

The California senator, who was a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, died in September of last year, but before her death, she submitted 265 projects directing federal funding to the Golden State, which were included in a package of six government funding bills unveiled by congressional leaders over the weekend.

The earmarks range across hundreds of projects, from funding repairs for fire stations to construction projects and grant programs, with thousands and sometimes millions of dollars flowing into each project.

Among the most expensive requests from the California senator was in the Energy and Water Development Bill, allocating $194 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to support emergency repairs in Santa Cruz. Feinstein submitted a certification letter for the project on March 30, 2023.

Many of the projects with the highest price tags are related to military construction. For example, Feinstein advocated funding a $66 million project at Fort Irwin to construct an Army barracks. Another project slated for $55 million in funding would provide the Army Reserve with a 1,300-member Army Reserve Center on the federally owned land at Patton Hall in Bell, California.

In some instances, a bipartisan group of lawmakers work together to secure projects. For example, Feinstein teamed up with Rep. Young Kim (R-CA) to secure $731,000 in funding to go to a nonprofit group to “strengthen human trafficking collaboration for victims encountering the criminal justice system” in Orange County. Another project put forth by Sens. Feinstein and Alex Padilla (R-CA) and Kim would direct $3,400,000 to Orange County for an Opioid Prevention Plan.

“Despite our policy differences, I respect Sen. Feinstein’s service to our state and willingness to work across the aisle to get several vital local projects for my district across the finish line,” Kim said in a statement provided to the Washington Examiner.

In 2021, Democrats ended a 10-year moratorium on earmarks. House Republicans voted to keep earmarks for spending bills in December 2022, which was a defeat for conservatives looking to rein in spending on “pork.” Republicans had banned earmarks when they took control of the House in 2010.

While some Senate Republicans voted for a one-week extension last week, several raised new concerns after the text of the new bill was released Sunday. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to air his grievances, accusing Democrats of pursuing “woke” projects with taxpayer funds.

“Schumer just released the text for the first six spending bills we’re supposed to vote on this week that includes 605 PAGES OF EARMARKS,” Scott said in the post. “One example? Schumer’s $1 MILLION ask to build a new environmental justice center in NYC…” 

Scott also highlighted a request from Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for $963,000 for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation for a project to help children and adolescents who have been sexually or physically abused or have witnessed sexual violence.

“It’s not just Schumer cashing in your tax dollars and digging us deeper in debt for woke nonsense. Pelosi wants you to send $1 MILLION to San Francisco so a social justice organization can make building improvements. HELL NO,” Scott wrote in a second post.

However, some are defending the move to include the late senator’s projects in the funding bills.

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“The purpose of directed funding is to meet important needs in local communities,” a Democratic aide told the Washington Examiner. “Carefully vetted projects that were properly submitted would be assessed on their own merits, even if the Senator or Representative passed away before final enactment of a funding bill.”

Lawmakers intend to pass the package of six funding bills through both chambers this week, but that could be a challenge since there is only a small window of time. The House and Senate are both set to return on Tuesday, and President Joe Biden will deliver the State of the Union address on Thursday evening. Once these bills are passed, lawmakers have until March 22 to pass the remaining bills to fund the rest of the government.

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