This was a vote on am amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ) to H.R. 3081, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Small Business Administration, the federal courts and many other federal government operations. The amendment would have eliminated a $100,000 earmark in H.R. 3081 for the Tech Belt Life Sciences project of the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse is a private-public partnership that assists entrepreneurial life science enterprises in western Pennsylvania. An earmark is a legislatively mandated grant or project that is inserted into an appropriations bill at the request of a particular member. A number of Republicans, of whom Rep. Flake was the most active, had been consistent critics of earmarks, and had been offering a series of amendments to remove them from spending bills.
Rep. Flake used a statement made by the CEO of the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse to support his amendment. The CEO had claimed that the objective of the tech belt was to “create some excitement and get funding from the federal government” to build up the region. Flake said: “(I)t's been successful at that. Believe me. There's a lot of money that has gone in federal earmark money, that's for sure . . . in this year's omnibus appropriation act alone, (the) district received $55 million in federal funding from earmarks.”
Rep. Doyle (D-PA) was responsible for having the earmark inserted in the appropriations bill. He noted in his statement that the goal of this facility “is to promote partnerships between various biotech industries and encourage growth in biosciences.” He noted that “the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse has worked with companies in over 20 counties throughout western Pennsylvania (and that) . . . $14.5 million has been committed in over 60 companies which have leveraged over $300 million in additional funding from venture capitalists and angel investors. 228 companies have been launched or grown using Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse services. Over 300 jobs have been created or retained in the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse-invested companies.”
Doyle also claimed that this Tech Belt Life Science Project “takes these activities to the next level by creating . . . $1 billion in combined National Institute of Health research dollars which can spin off hundreds of companies and, in turn, create jobs.” He concluded his remarks by saying this will “improve public health, generate economic growth in a region in need of jobs, and ultimately make the region an international destination for biosciences and high-tech innovation. Promoting such growth and development not only benefits the State of Ohio, but the State of Pennsylvania and the entire country as a whole.”
Rep Ryan (D-OH) also opposed the amendment. He referred in his remarks to Rep. Flake’s continued effort to reduce federal earmark funding, which Flake almost always targeted to local areas. Ryan claimed that Flake’s congressional district in Arizona “wouldn't even exist (but for) . . . the $7 billion Central Arizona Project . . . paid for by the taxes of the steelworkers in Pittsburgh.” Ryan concluded by saying that states with older industries “helped build the West . . . and now we're saying we need to retool our economy.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 104-325. Ninety-eight Republicans and six Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifty Democrats and seventy-five Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the earmark for the Tech Belt Life Sciences project of the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse remained in H.R. 3170.