Congressman Leonard Boswell is not joining President Obama’s call for an end to so-called “earmarks” in the federal budget.
Individual members of congress often specify spending for certain projects, a process called “earmarking” in D.C. Obama has threatened to veto any budget bill that includes “earmarked” spending items.
“There’s not one I’ve ever asked for that I felt ashamed of or (had) any qualms about explaining the importance of it,” Boswell says.
Boswell, a Democrat, says earmarks got a bad rap in the 2008 presidential election when Republican candidate John McCain railed against the “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska, a project McCain’s running mate initially supported.
“Now, you have one exceptional thing like the ‘bridge to nowhere’…which never happened, but it got so much attention,” Boswell says. “And we’ve never had anything like that and we never would.”
Boswell says he’s fielded “hundreds” of requests for earmarks, and he “walks around” the proposed project before he tries to line up federal funding for it.
“And I think that that puts me in a position better than somebody sitting behind a desk in Washington, D.C. about the importance of what that priority should be,” Boswell says. “I don’t feel any qualms about it at all. I don’t think it’s overdone.”
According to Boswell, earmarks are a “moot point” in budget-cutting discussions because they account for less than one percent of the federal budget. Boswell says when reality sets in, voters will resist the ban on earmarks.
“Why on earth would the people of Iowa send us out there and not fight for something like the southeast connector (in the Des Moines area) that takes us out through that industrial area and connects Kemin, who’s an international organization that’s ready to grow, but they’ve got to have some connection in and out of there,” Boswell says. “And how would you not go fight for something like that?”
However, Republicans in the House have forbidden earmarks in budget bills and the Democrat who heads the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has told senators not to send him earmark requests.