This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ) that would have eliminated a $2,000,000 earmark for the Fort Mason Center Pier 2 Project at the West Coast Port of Embarkation site 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 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 funding bills. This was one of those amendments.
Supporters of the funds for the site, through which immigrants from Asia passed before entering the United States, claimed that it set a standard for historic preservation and urban planning. Rep. Flake pointed out that the facility previously received a $13 million federal earmark. He then said “I don't know why in the world we keep earmarking dollars for centers like this. They clearly are in areas, in this case, San Francisco, where there is other funding or other funding is already used.”
Flake referenced the fact the Speaker of the House Pelosi (D-CA), who represents the San Francisco area, had the funds inserted in the bill. He then returned to the argument he had been making during consideration of a number of funding bills, that “58 percent of the (earmarked) funding is going to just 24 percent of the body, people who know their power and know that they can get earmarks.” He concluded his remarks by asking, rhetorically, “(A)t what point do we say we have to make priorities here? When you have a deficit that may hit $2 trillion this year, at what point do we say we can't spend another $2 million for the Fort Mason Center Pier 2 earmark?”
Rep. Pastor (D-AZ), a member of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 3183, argued against the amendment. He said that the area around the Port of Embarkation site “has been developing to assist the people of San Francisco and the surrounding areas as a center for culture, education and recreation and . . . this is an earmark that continues the development of the center.” Pastor also said that “(T)he continued development of the center will now include more and extensive use of solar and wind energy and will serve as a model for sustainable practices within a historically sensitive context.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 125-301. One hundred and twenty Republicans and five Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifty Democrats and fifty-one Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the earmark for the West Coast Port of Embarkation site remained in the energy and water development funding bill.