This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Hensarling (R-TX) that would have eliminated a $6.2 million earmark for the removal of Pier 36 in San Francisco from H.R. 3183, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funds for energy and water development. An earmark is a project that benefits only a specific constituency or geographic area, which is inserted into a spending bill by an individual. A number of Republicans, including Rep. Hensarling, had been consistent critics of earmarks and had been offering a series of amendments to remove them from funding bills. This was one of those amendments.
Rep. Hensarling, in his statement in support of deleting the funds, first said: “(A)lthough I have no doubt that removal of this pier must be a good thing, I'm kind of curious why the San Francisco Port Authority doesn't pay for it itself. I don't think the Federal Government owns this particular pier. I'm not going to debate that it's not a good use of money. I question whether or not it is a good use of the Federal taxpayer money at this time (of large deficits)”. Hensarling argued that was an example of the unfortunate “culture of spending” that has created the deficits and that: “(U)nless you change the culture of spending, you're never going to change spending.”
Hensarling noted that this earmark was inserted by Speaker of the House Pelosi (D-CA), who represents the San Francisco area. He claimed that “(S)he, more than anybody else, can lead by example. And I'm disappointed this earmark was brought to us today.” He quoted her as previously saying “I'd just soon do away with all earmarks,'' and then asked rhetorically “Why is she bringing at least two of them today?”
Rep. Pastor (D-AZ), a member of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 3183, argued against the amendment. He first noted that the removal of the pier by the U.S. Corps of Engineers had been authorized in 2007. Pastor then said that the deteriorating sections of decking and wooden support pieces of the pier “continue to rot, break, and float into the bay, which represents a potential hazard to navigation in the adjacent Federal Channel.” He argued that the pier removal “is needed to ensure that the continued deterioration . . . would not cause a threat to navigation and the chemicals (in the pier) . . . would be eliminated as an environmental hazard.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 128-299. One hundred and twenty-five Republicans and three Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifth-three Democrats and forty-six Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the earmark for the removal of Pier 36 in San Francisco remained in the energy and water development funding bill.