This was a vote on the Campbell (R-CA) Amendment to H.R. 2996, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. The amendment would have eliminated one million dollars from the National Park Service's National Recreational and Preservation fund in the bill that had been “earmarked” for a project of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation in San Francisco, California. 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 had been attempting to remove earmarks from a series of spending bills that Congress had been considering.
Rep. Campbell, in his statement in support of the amendment, noted that he is “a fan of historic preservation.” However, referring to the project at Angel Island, he said “I just feel we shouldn't do it with taxpayer money in this way.” Campbell referenced the fact that the project was in a California state park and that it had recently received more than two million dollars in other federal money. He then asked, rhetorically, “what makes Angel Island Immigration Station more worthy . . . than various other State parks?”
After noting the nearly $2 trillion projected federal deficit, Campbell cited statements by House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA), who represents San Francisco, that “(I)t's just absolutely immoral for us to heap those deficits on our children” and that “I’d just as soon do away with all earmarks, but that probably isn't realistic.” Campbell then said “there aren't many things lately I agree with the Speaker on, but I agree with both of those two comments. We have to stop passing on debt to our children. We have to stop spending money on things that are not national priorities, are not have-to-have items. And although this is in my home State of California, I believe this is one of those items.” Campbell concluded by noting that there was an ongoing effort to raise private funds to rehabilitate the facility and said “that is where the effort should be.”
Rep. Woolsey (D-CA), who, along with Speaker Pelosi, was responsible for having this earmark included in H.R. 2996, claimed that the Angel Island Immigration Station had great “cultural and historic significance” and was “very important . . . to millions of Americans.” She noted that it is “known as the ‘Ellis Island of the West’ because over a 30-year period between 1910 and 1940, the Angel Island Immigration Station processed more than 1 million immigrants from around the world with the majority coming from Asia.”
She also argued that the facility “contributes greatly to our understanding of our nation's rich and complex immigration history by hosting more than 50,000 people including 30,000 school children every single year. But because of severe deterioration, many of the historic buildings are in danger of collapsing and in desperate need of repair . . . so that it can be used, among other things, as a museum to tell the story of immigration from Asia to the United States. Now, I doubt very much that anyone would come to this floor to strike funding for Ellis Island and argue that its preservation was ‘wasteful government spending.’ But . . . Angel Island is just as important to those who crossed through its gates as Ellis Island was for so many European immigrants.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 131-296. One hundred and twenty-five Republicans and six Democrats vote “aye”. Two hundred and forty-eight Democrats and forty-eight Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the one million dollars earmarked for the Angel Island Immigration Foundation remained in H.R. 2996.