This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ), which would have eliminated 70 earmarks, amounting to almost $200 million, from H.R. 3326, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Defense Department. Rep. Flake had been a constant critic of “earmarks”, or legislatively mandated projects such as these, that were inserted at the request of individual Members into funding bills.
All of the earmarks that would have been deleted by the amendment were for contracts for clients of the PMA Group. The PMA Group was a lobbying firm specializing in obtaining earmarks that had recently been raided by the FBI and was being investigated for making illegal campaign contributions. Flake said that “PMA is emblematic of the troubling circular fund-raising that's become entrenched in the current earmarking process . . . According to the Center for Responsive Politics, since 1998, the firm and its clients have given $40.3 million total to . . . 514 lawmakers, nearly every Member of the current Congress. The Center also reported that members of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee have collected nearly $1 million in campaign cash since 1998 from PMA employees and the firm's PAC.” Flake also said that each of these 70 earmarks were for “no-bid” contracts.
Rep. Kirk (R-IL) supported the amendment, and said its passage would “protect this House . . . (and) make sure that we can be beyond reproach.”
Rep. Murtha (D-PA), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 3326, opposed the amendment. After noting that $9.7 billion in H.R. 3326 would go to Rep. Flake’s state of Arizona, he said “we've put the projects in that we thought were worthwhile, not because they're from a Representative . . . Those projects are in the budget because Members, themselves, thought they were good projects.
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 118-304. Ninety-nine Republicans and nineteen Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and thirty-four Democrats and seventy Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, no earmarks were deleted from the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Defense.