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Conservatives Hammer Dems On Earmarks But Still Grab Bites Of Pork

If you were bored enough to watch the House floor during the budget debate yesterday, you may have seen conservative lawmakers like Marsha Blackburn, Paul Ryan and Mike Pence leading the crusade against the earmark-laden omnibus spending bill.

But even these fiscal hawks, all members of the conservative Republican Study Committee, haven't totally sworn off earmarks, and don't plan to.

Blackburn, of Tennessee, has attached her name to a $784,000 earmark for Appalachian horticulture research for the University of Tennessee. Pence, of Indiana, a former chairman of the RSC, nabbed $400,000 for public transit for Anderson, Ind. And Ryan of Wisconsin, one of a handful of 30-something up and comers in the GOP conference, will send home $750,000 for the Janesville, Wisc., city transit system. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), an RSC member who has developed a reputation as a conservative rabble rouser on the House floor, was co-sponsor of a $1.5 million earmark for the Statesville Regional Airport improvements.

To his credit, a search for the name of RSC Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), turns up no earmarks. And Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), along with Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), also will go without any earmarks in this year's omnibus. Conservatives as a whole receive fewer earmarks, according to this chart.

The complete database of earmarks in the omnibus, in a handy searchable format, can be found here.

RSC spokesman Brad Dayspring points out that the conservative organization does not believe in an outright ban on earmarks, but they are happy to point out pork projects that don't pass the sniff test or were "air dropped" into the budget bill without consideration by the Appropriations Committee.

"Hensarling has made clear that while not all earmarks are bad, the process of earmark distribution is and has lent itself to the triumph of seniority over merit, secrecy over transparency, and the special interest over the national interest," Dayspring said.