This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Hensarling (R-TX),which would have would have eliminated $200,000 that was “earmarked” for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for the National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy project in Kiski Basin, Pennsylvania. The amendment was offered to the bill providing fiscal 2010 year funding for the Department of Agriculture, rural development, and the Food and Drug Administration and related agencies. An earmark is a project that benefits only a specific constituency or geographic area, which is inserted into a spending bill by an individual Member. A number of Republicans had been consistent critics of earmarks, and had been offering a series of amendments to remove them from funding bills.
Rep. Hensarling, speaking on behalf of his amendment, said he wanted to put it in “a broader context.” He said the “the national priority has got to be job growth, economic growth. And, by any standard, the economic policies of this Democratic Congress, the economic policies of this administration have been an abject failure.” Hensarling referred to the large amounts that had been proposed by President Obama and approved by the Congress to overcome the current economic crisis and asked “what do we have to show for it? Nothing but debt . . . .” Hensarling argued that his amendment was “an opportunity for the taxpayers to maybe save $200,000. Not to borrow that money from the Chinese.”
He added that “(I)'m sure good things can be done with this money by the Natural Biodiversity and their holistic habitat management program . . . But let me tell you other good things that can be done with the money. That money could be used to go against the deficit . . . And if we're going to spend it, maybe we ought to spend it on small businesses . . . We could save eight small businesses in America. But, most importantly right now, we could tell America that we know what the priorities are--and it's not weed management by Natural Biodiversity in the Kiski River Basin. I have no idea how this became a national priority.”
Rep. DeLauro (D-CT), the chair of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 2997, opposed the amendment. She said that the program from which the amendment would eliminate funding “was initiated in response to citizens' concerns for invasive plant problems in the . . . Allegheny River and Ohio River Basin (and that) . . . Subsequent work has been expanded . . . to include the Juniata watershed of the Chesapeake Bay, the State of Pennsylvania, and a much larger mid-Atlantic region. Invasive plant management work has led to innovative approaches, including native plant restoration and comprehensive land stewardship practices.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 122-307. One hundred and fourteen Republicans and eight Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-five Democrats and sixty-two Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the funding earmarked for the National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy project in Kiski Basin, Pennsylvania remained in H.R. 2997.