The Congressional agenda is packed with health care, energy and financial regulatory reform issues, but lawmakers have found plenty of time to stuff earmarks into the defense spending bill, according to the number crunchers at Taxpayers for Common Sense.
The watchdog group analyzed the 2010 defense appropriations bill that will soon make an appearance on the Senate floor (as early as Thursday) and found 778 earmarks totaling $2.65 billion, with many of the big-ticket items credited to members of the appropriations committee, which is typical.
Among the more costly earmarks – $20 million for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, sponsored by Sen. John Kerry, D-Ma., and Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-HI. The money would pay for starting a new program to teach “students of all ages about the unique form of our Constitutional government and representative democracy.”
Inouye authored 31 earmarks totaling $178 million plus four more in concert with other Senators worth $28.5 million, TCS reports. He also sponsored a $20 million earmark for the Maui Space Surveillance System in Hawaii.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is another big spender, earmarking $25 million for the National World War II museum at the University of New Orleans.
And it's not all Democrats stuffing the bill with extraneous spending. The top Republican on the committee, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who has historically been an enthusiastic earmarker, sponsored 13 pet projects in the defense bill worth $50 million, and he co-sponsored another 35 projects worth $166 million.