This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Hensarling (R-TX), which would have deleted $750,000 earmarked for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Transportation Improvement Program. It was offered to H.R. 3288, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Transportation. A number of Republicans, including Rep. Hensarling had been constantly criticizing “earmarks”, or legislatively mandated projects such as this one, that were inserted at the request of individual Members into funding bills.
Hensarling began his remarks by noting the one trillion dollar federal deficit, and said “I have no doubt that this is a good use of money . . . but I have a number of questions. Number one, why is this a federal responsibility (and if so) . . . why didn't this money go to the . . . thousands of other art museums in the nation, are they not equally deserving? And if this is a federal responsibility, is it really a federal priority at a time when, under this Democratic majority, we now have the highest rate of unemployment that we've had in a quarter of a century . . .? Maybe our priority ought to be to try to create more jobs, and there are hundreds of thousands of small businesses . . . that could benefit from that money . . . .”
Hensarling went on to say, “if I concede the argument that somehow this is not only a federal responsibility but a federal priority, again, is it of equal priority to creating jobs? Is it of equal priority to the money that goes to the National Institutes of Health for cancer research? . . . I think not . . . it just doesn't meet the test of the taxpayers and the struggling families in this nation.”
Hensarling added that the taxpayers in his Texas district “don't want to pay for (Philadelphia) transportation projects, and they have transportation needs of their own. If this is such a priority, why doesn't the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania take it out of their share of the Federal Highway Trust Fund? Why doesn't the State of Pennsylvania take it from their taxpayers? Why doesn't the City of Philadelphia take it from their taxpayers, or maybe the art museum has to charge a little bit more so that the struggling taxpayers . . . don't have to pay more in taxes . . . .”
Rep. Brady (D-PA), who was the Member responsible for having the earmark inserted into this spending bill, responded by saying “the money does not go to the art museum. The art museum is located in the city of Philadelphia, and it benefits the entire region. This isn't private property. It's a public street that runs around a city-owned building. The contracts for this work will be let by Pennsylvania's transportation department, administered by the city of the Philadelphia . . . This area has proven to be extremely dangerous for drivers and pedestrians alike. I requested funding for this earmark because it's vitally important for the safety and well-being of my constituents, as well as the millions of others who visit Philadelphia every year.” He added that: “(T)he reason why government was formed is to protect our citizens. . . I am bringing back resources . . . .”
The amendment was defeated on a vote of 192-226. One hundred and seventy Republicans and twenty-two Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and twenty-five Democrats and one Republican voted “nay”. As a result, the $750,000 earmarked for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Transportation Improvement Program remained in the bill providing the 2010 fiscal year funding for the HUD and the Department of Transportation.