This vote was on an amendment by John McCain, R-Ariz., that would have prohibited funding from going to the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds environmental and Interior Department spending in fiscal 2010.
“Buried in the committee report, as usual, is a $200,000 earmark for historic preservation needs at the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa. I am all for preserving our Nation’s historic buildings, but good intentions or not, the process of earmarking is how appropriators steer taxpayers’ dollars to pet projects that wouldn’t otherwise win a grant competition or pass a prioritization formula. They are placed above more deserving projects simply because of their ‘connections’ in Washington,” McCain said, explaining why he wanted to defund the provision.
Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, defended money for the art museum, noting that it is Congress’ job to decide how money should be spent.
“The Senator claims this earmark, which provides $200,000 in funding for repair and renovation of the historic Des Moines Art Center, is somehow inappropriate and should be removed from the bill. Well, it comes as no surprise that I strenuously disagree,” Harkin said. “First of all, as a constitutional matter, I take issue with the premise underlying the Senator’s amendment—the idea that Congress has no business directing the expenditure of Federal moneys to earmarks, that there is something inherently wrong or evil in this traditional practice, and that only the executive branch should determine where Federal moneys are spent. Well, I beg to differ. What is more, compared to executive branch individuals, Members of Congress have a much better understanding of where and how Federal funds can be spent most effectively in their respective districts and States, and that is certainly the case with the earmark in question.”
By a vote of 27-70, the amendment was rejected. Of Republicans present, 26 voted for the amendment and 14 voted against it. All but one Democrat present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the measure went forward without language that would have stripped $200,000 for the Des Moines Art Center.