For anti-spending hawks, today must have been a difficult day. H.R. 1105 (the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009), with an attendant $410 billion in appropriations, cleared the House (245-178) and is on its way to the Senate.
Today's favorite earmarks come from the first section of the bill, which focuses on agriculture.
1. The first comes from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). It's a $200,000 earmark to "support research to develop new beneficial, non-smoking uses for tobacco." Does chewing it count as beneficial? This may be an interesting line of research to help tobacco farmers, but in a period of budget suspender-tightening, it seems questionable. The money goes to the University of Maryland.
2. The second belongs to Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.). He is requesting $131,000 "for a program to enable farmers to use high performance computational tools to make sound crop management decisions." Again, it might be useful, but we're not farmers. However, it's important to note that the funding goes to Cornell University, which resides in Hinchey's district.
3. Number three goes to Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.). She wants $422,000 for the "analysis of defense-related candidate genes in grapes, exploration of health-promoting compounds in native grape species and characterization of emerging severe viral diseases of the grapevine." Unsurprisingly the money goes to Missouri State University. To channel Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for a moment, is this earmark a criminal issue or paternity question?
4. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) wins the "most unfortunate project name of the day" award for this earmark. She asked for $839,000 for a project called "Monitoring Agricultural Sewage Sludge Application." Her earmark request letter says that the recipient of the funds, the University of Toledo, will be performing "an investigation into the human health impacts of sewage sludge application on agricultural fields." Eeew. A quick Google search reveals that there may indeed be many benefits of putting (treated) sewer sludge on crops, but we still wouldn't want to be a participant in that study.
5. We saved the best for last. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) earns a "proofread, please" award for her request of $416,000 for the "Babcock Institute for International Diary Research." That group doesn't exist. There is, however, a Babcock Institute for International Dairy Research.
The error is particularly egregious, though, because she makes it three times in one paragraph. Check out her earmark request letter below:
Are these earmarks ridiculous pork, or are they good projects? Tell us what you think.