This vote was on an amendment by Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., that would strike $900,000 for the Whitefish Emergency Operations Center in Whitefish, Montana. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the Homeland Security Department in fiscal 2010.
Kyl said President Obama requested that funding for these types of “emergency center” projects be terminated because the pot of grant money has become an irresistible target for pork spending (or “earmarking”) by members of Congress, rather than having the grants decided on the basis of actual risk.
John McCain, R-Ariz., who cosponsored the amendment with Kyl, said Whitefish only has 5,849 people, making this earmark worth $153.87 per resident.
“Look, it is all about the fact that there has been no analysis, no assessment, no debate on the merits of using federal funds for a municipal improvement project. I am sure Whitefish needs municipal improvement. So do cities and towns all over America. Why was Whitefish picked?” McCain asked.
Jon Tester, D-Mont., who sponsored the earmark, said it is not an “egregious expenditure.”
“We have a Canadian border 60 miles north. We have a park to the east of it. We have millions—millions of acres of Forest Service land all around it, north, south and to the west. When we have emergencies, it is not necessarily just terrorism … we also have a very real threat again of forest fires occurring,” Tester said. He added that the current building is too small, is 100 years old and is in a seismically-active zone. In addition, several federal services rely on the building as well.
By a vote of 36-59, the amendment was rejected. Of Republicans present, 34 voted for the amendment and six voted against it. All but two Democrats present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the measure went forward with funding for the Whitefish Emergency Operations Center intact.