Reid Wants Spending Bill Passed Despite Earmarks

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has $236.9 million in earmarks in the government spending bill. From the CBS Evening News, Dec. 16, 2010.
The House is debating the deal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts. The Senate passed it Wednesday. Meanwhile Congress still needs to pass a spending bill to keep the government running. Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says he'll keep the Senate in session until it does, through the holidays if necessary.

CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports the problem may be all the pet projects in the bill. On Thursday Reid held up a tiny copy of the Constitution to defend, of all things, earmarks.

Earmarks are pet projects that members of Congress pay for with your tax dollars. Reid says Congress' power to earmark helps balance the executive branch powers. But earmarks have become synonymous with Congressional waste and excess.

There are $8.3 billion in earmarks added onto the current spending bill; $236 million worth belongs to Reid and he proudly disclosed and defended them all.

He earmarked your tax dollars for noxious weeds, cutthroat trout, dairy and meat goat research. You name it, it's in there.

Reid attacked colleagues who voted to ban earmarks yet stuffed a bunch of them into the spending bill.

"If you went to 'H' in the dictionary and found 'hypocrite,' under that would be people who ask for earmarks but vote against them," said Reid.

Twenty-eight senators voted for an earmark ban that didn't pass but have mega earmarks of their own.

Robert Wicker (R-Miss.) has his name on about $450 million worth, including shrimp aquaculture and wood utilization.

Mark Warner (D-Va.) earmarked $66 million for marine aquaculture, horticultural crops and more.

If anyone deserves props in this whole controversy, it might be the 10 senators who voted to ban earmarks, and didn't put any in the current bill. The fury over earmarks is so bitter, the President worries it will keep the whole spending bill from getting enough votes to pass. That would disrupt budgets government-wide.

"The President would strongly prefer a piece of legislation that doesn't contain any of those earmarks," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

But the White House spokesman urged Congress to hold its nose and vote for the spending bill earmarks and all to keep the Pentagon and other government agencies operating normally.

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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.