This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ), which would have deleted $400,000, earmarked for the renovation of a vacant building to promote economic development in Jal, New Mexico. The earmark is was in H.R. 3288, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Transportation.
Rep. Flake had been a constant critic of “earmarks”, or legislatively mandated projects such as this one, that were inserted at the request of individual Members into funding bills. He noted that the building to be renovated with these funds had been vacant for a number of years. He also noted that the city had a buyer in mind for the building, who had previously declined to purchase the old school due to its condition. Therefore, the city intended to use federal funds to rehabilitate the building to enable it to sell it to a private company.
Rep. Teague (D-NM), who was responsible for having this earmark inserted into H.R. 3288, responded to Rep. Flake. Teague said “no one in (Washington) would likely ever know the name of (Jal) or that it existed at all . . . my job is) to put Jal on the map, to know the priorities and the needs of communities like Jal and to work to address them. If there is a problem in my district, it is my job to get to work solving it.”
Teague went on to say that Jal’s problem is that it needs to renovate the building for it to be useful again, which will enable the city “to attract private industry to town. (This) will create jobs in Jal and increase the town's tax base. Projects like this are exactly why the Economic Development Initiative was legislated in the first place, and I'm proud to have sponsored this appropriation for Jal.” He added that he was “not going to stand by and hope that some faceless bureaucrat looks kindly upon a place like Jal. I know the community's needs. I know the problems. I was elected to stand up for places like Jal, New Mexico, not hope that someone else does.”
Rep. Flake answered by saying that the earmark is “just saying that we ought to give $400,000 to the city (even though) . . . every city in this country is hurting financially.” He added that if “we won't trust these faceless bureaucrats to distribute earmarks or distribute Federal funding” as Rep. Teague suggested, then Flake “would question the existence of this Economic Development Initiative (and) , we probably ought to get rid of it completely given the dire straits we are in financially as a federal government.” Flake concluded his remarks by arguing “when you have a deficit that may hit $2 trillion . . . sometime this body has to say enough is enough. And if we can't keep (money) from going to a program like this, where are we going to start?”
The amendment was defeated on a vote of 125-310. One hundred and eighteen Republicans and seven Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifty-one Democrats and fifty-nine Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the $400,000 earmarked for Jal, New Mexico remained in the bill providing the 2010 fiscal year funding for the HUD and the Department of Transportation.