This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Hensarling (R-TX), which would have deleted $2,000,000, earmarked for the reconfiguration of the approach road to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. 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. The Golden Gate Bridge is owned and operated by the state of California, which charges tolls on it. A number of Republicans, including Rep. Hensarling, had been regularly 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 saying that not “all earmarks are bad. I'm not even here to tell you that somehow this is a bad use of somebody's money . . . I've heard a number of people say, ‘Well, relative to the Federal budget, this is kind of pennies and nickels.’ Well, yes, maybe it is. I hope . . . I'm never in Congress so long that I consider $2 million to be pennies and nickels . . . if you don't start saving those pennies and nickels, how will you ever save the dollars?” Hensarling then said that the federal deficit is “on its way to $1.8 trillion (and) . . . maybe $2 million is small relative to that, but if you don't change the culture of spending, how are you ever going to change the spending?”
Hensarling then referenced the fact that Speaker of the House Pelosi (D-CA) was responsible for having these funds inserted into H.R. 3288. He argued that she had said “prior to becoming the Speaker of the House, I'd just as soon do away with all earmarks . . . (and) if you would just as soon do away with earmarks why don't you lead by example and quit asking for them?”
Rep. Olver (D-MA), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed HR. 3288, opposed the amendment. He noted that earmarks in the 2010 fiscal year HUD and Transportation Department funding bill had been cut to 50 percent of the 2006 levels they were at when the Republicans were in the majority and controlled the funding process. He also noted that, in 2009, new requirements were introduced by the Democrats “to continue our effort to ensure that the appropriations process is open, transparent and worthy of the public's trust. As part of that, the committee vetted each (earmark) request with the agency under whose jurisdiction an earmark would fall. Also, each request has been publicly disclosed on Members' Web sites so everyone can know exactly what has been asked by every Member and what ones are being funded.”
Olver also noted that the Golden Gate Bridge and its approach roads are the only link between the San Francisco peninsula and Northern California counties, and are designated as a post-disaster recovery route.
The amendment was defeated on a vote of 124-309. One hundred and twenty-one Republicans and three Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifty-six Democrats and fifty-three Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the $2,000,000 earmarked for the reconfiguration project for the approach road to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco remained in the bill providing the 2010 fiscal year funding for HUD and the Department of Transportation.