This vote was on a motion to kill an amendment by John McCain, R-Ariz., that would have stipulated that any money provided for member pet projects (known as “earmarks”) would instead go to improving the air traffic control system. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds transportation and housing programs in fiscal 2010.
McCain said his amendment would take $1.7 billion in earmarked spending in the bill and instead direct it to modernizing the country’s antiquated air traffic control system, which still functions on radar signals instead of with satellite signals.
“It would decrease airport delays, improve the flow of commerce, and advance our Nation’s air quality by reducing aircraft carbon emissions, unlike earmarks that only affect a small segment of our Nation’s population and generally those Americans who happen to live in a State represented by a Senator who is a member of the Appropriations Committee,” McCain said. “For example, the distinguished manager of the bill [Patty Murray, D-Wash.] had secured more earmarks than any other Member—50 earmarks—including $2 million for a bike trail in Spokane—a bike trail. Right now, with the American people hurting all over America, we are going to spend an additional $2 million of their money for a bike trail.”
Murray said the ongoing air traffic control modernization effort is a very important project, which the bill would already fund at $865 million. But she said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a history of mismanaging large projects and that she is, in essence, concerned that dumping another $1.7 billion into the project all at once would end up being wasteful spending.
“If we hand that agency a blank check now for well over a billion dollars, which this amendment asks for, that is not the right way for this body to do oversight or ensure the responsible use of the Federal dollars over which we have oversight,” Murray said.
She also defended the practice of earmarking, saying that every member of Congress has the right to “identify priorities for their home States and to advocate for them.” Murray then made a motion to kill McCain’s amendment, which is what this vote was on.
By a vote of 68-26, the motion to defeat the amendment was agreed to. All but three Democrats present voted for the motion. Of Republicans present, 16 voted for the motion and 23 voted against it. The end result is that the motion to kill McCain’s amendment carried, the amendment was defeated and the bill went forward with funding for earmarks intact.