This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Hensarling (R-TX) that would have eliminated a $500,000 earmark for the heating and air conditioning improvements at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art 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, including Rep. Hensarling, 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.
Rep. Hensarling, in his statement in support of deleting the funds, first raised the question of whether it is “the responsibility of the Federal taxpayer to pay for this improvement in a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.” He then raised the question: “(A)nd if it's a federal responsibility is it really a federal priority?” Hensarling went on to note the projected trillion dollar federal deficit for fiscal year 2009, and asked, rhetorically: “(A)nd if it's a Federal priority, is it equal to other Federal priorities? Is it as important for spending money for the National Institutes of Health to find the cure for cancer? Is it as important as spending money on our veterans’ health care system? And particularly in this economy is it as important as giving tax relief to small business, the job engine in America?” Hensarling concluded his remarks by arguing that “(S)pending is out of control. Let’s start (saving) somewhere.”
Rep. Maloney (D-NY, who was responsible for having the earmark inserted in H.R. 3183, responded by first claiming that the earmark had been reviewed by the Department of Energy, which “decided that it will not only directly and positively impact my district but the Nation at large.” Maloney claimed that the innovative equipment that will be purchased with the earmarked funds will be energy-efficient, and the result will be “a significant savings to the environment and a substantial reduction in energy use by a major museum.”
Maloney added that the Metropolitan Museum of Art “is a national treasure . . . a cultural and artistic center in our country, and . . . part of the economic lifeblood of New York and this country. It pays considerable taxes, and it also generates revenues in our city from the over 5 million annual visitors to the museum. It is one of the top tourist attractions in the country, and by supporting this funding request, you support the thousands of small businesses in the community that will benefit from the many who visit it.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 133-290. One hundred and twenty-seven Republicans and six Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-five Democrats and forty-five Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the earmark for the heating and air conditioning improvements at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art remained in the energy and water development funding bill.