Earmarks Asks a Tricky Question for Kansas Republicans: Running Out of Money or Keeping Your Reputation | KCUR 89.3


TOPEKA, Kansas – Eleven years ago, in a Topeka television studio with navy blue panels and wood, then American representatives Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt argued before the Republican primary for the US Senate.

Looking directly into the camera, Moran told viewers he supported a moratorium on postings, but “Congressman Tiahrt led the effort to keep the posting process in place.”

Tiahrt worded it differently.

“Well, when you listen to Congressman Moran, you’d think I’m the only one in Washington or Kansas doing assignments,” Tiahrt said.

But, he said, everyone was using them.

“In fact, last year alone,” Tiahrt said, “Moran has supported and requested over $ 250 million in assignments.”

Allocations give Congress a tool to tie money from a spending bill to a specific project without going through all the hoops of a normal funding request.

They had become a favorite target for Republicans, glaring examples of the soft corruption of incumbents who wasted money on things like a bridge to now. And when the budget hawks of the Tea Party invaded the US House, the credits were wiped out.

Tiahrt’s seat on the powerful appropriations committee and his desire to reform assignments, rather than abandon them altogether, put a target on his back. He lost to Moran, who has since become a senator.

This year, Democrats in Congress have brought in credits and invited Republicans to join in raising money for special projects in their districts. Some Republicans are taking advantage of it. But postings are a double-edged sword for members of a party that has long advocated lower spending and lower taxes. If they don’t play the posting game, they’re leaving Washington with money that could have gone back to their districts – and won them votes.

A moratorium

By 2010, before Jerry Moran became a senator, the days of bragging about the $ 142,500 he got to help were gone. to pay for the McPherson Opera House, or the assignment requests he made to help a community college build a biotech center.

Shortly after the 2010 election, the postings that helped build coalitions, pass big spending bills, and generally grease the wheels of Capitol Hill left when House Speaker John Boehner banned them.

Giving up credits also meant giving up a way to control some of the Republican Party’s more tax-conservative brands. There weren’t as many incentives like campaign donations or spending on special projects to get people to common ground.

“What else do you have? Well, you could really go nuclear, if someone’s a real thorn in the side, and take them off a committee,” said Laura Blessing, who has studied assignments. as a senior researcher at the Georgetown Government Affairs Institute “It’s just too powerful a tool. It’s a hammer.”

Can USRep. Tim Huelskamp felt the hammer blow. He had had a rocky relationship with Boehner. The speaker expelled the congressman from western Kansas and the head of the House Freedom Caucus from the House agriculture committee. And for the first time in 150 years, Kansas was left without a player at the table when farm policy was swept away.

When he ran for re-election in 2016, attack ads blasted the Republican for losing that seat to Ag.

Michael Smith, professor of political science at Emporia State University, said that Huelskamp re-election lost when he lost his place on the committee.

“When Roger Marshall challenged him in the primaries, he didn’t specifically run on assignments. The assignments are a bit politically sensitive, ”Smith said. But “he hammered Huelskamp on the idea (that) it is not the most effective to bring home resources in this neighborhood. And assignments are part of it.

To play or not

Yet when asked about assignments recently, Now-Sen. Marshal says Politico, “I’m going to do whatever I can to blow the process up so no one is making any assignments.”

Rep. Tracey Mann, a Republican from Salina, said in a declaration, “I did not run for office so that I could be the guardian of the slow demise of our great nation,” noting that he feared that a return to House appropriations “would again get out of hand and lead to an increase in government spending. “

US Representative Ron Estes, a Republican from Wichita, agreed. A statement from his office said the allocation process “distracts from focusing on how to cut spending.”

Smith said if Republicans continued to pass on the allocations, it would leave federal money that could benefit their districts on the table.

“Are they going to bring this argument of conservative ideology, no more big government? ” he said. “Or are they going to go back to the more traditional Bob Dole type of politics of talking about a small government, while making sure their districts get their fair share of the pie?”

United States Representative Sharice Davids is Kansas’ only Democrat in Congress. She supports assignments to help redevelop a Kansas City freeway and buy more electric buses for his neighborhood. Davids asked millions dollars in allotments for a myriad of projects ranging from $ 43 million for a dike and flood wall system to Merriam to a imaging machine at the University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Until now, none of the three republicans who represent Kansas in the United States House requested appropriations. The only member of the Kansas delegation who has yet to decide is Moran.

When politics senators questioned At the start of May, Moran was one of more than a dozen who had not decided whether they would go to assignments this year. His office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Jim Slattery is a former Democratic congressman from Topeka. He said he thinks the Kansas delegation should ask for assignments. If Congress doesn’t choose where to spend the money, he said, the president will. This money could end up going to swing states that are more useful politically to the president. Not Kansas.

“Why,” he said, “wouldn’t they aggressively pursue the money that is going to build highways and infrastructure to improve the Internet and broadband capacity in Kansas?”

Abigail Censky is the political reporter for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @AbigailCensky or send him an email to abigailcensky (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW, and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and how they relate to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by media at no cost with appropriate attribution and link to ksnewsservice.org.

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