What to Know in Washington: Senate’s Earmarked Billions at Stake

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More than 7,500 earmarks totaling $16 billion hang in the balance as lawmakers attempt to negotiate a government funding deal and avoid a year-long stopgap measure that wouldn’t dole out any funds to members’ favorite local projects.

Powerful retiring senators would be among the biggest winners if negotiators can reach a deal, which would include infrastructure and university funds sought by Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Vice Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), as well as military construction projects added by Senate Armed Services ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).

The Senate included 3,123 earmarks totaling $7,780,973,000 in its fiscal 2023 appropriations bills released in July, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis of nine documents published by the Senate Appropriations Committee. A central Excel document containing all the earmarks, compiled from the nine PDF files, is available here. On the House side, lawmakers included 4,386 earmarks totaling $8,231,999,565 according to an analysis earlier this year. A central Excel doc with the House earmarks is available here. Combined, the two chambers have published 7,509 earmarks totaling $16,012,972,565.

The earmarked funding total is slightly less than 1% of the roughly $1.7 trillion government funding package lawmakers hope to finish this year. Members agreed to apply a 1% limit to the new earmarking process when they brought it back ahead of fiscal 2022, after a decade-long ban on the process.

Shelby stands to take home the most earmarked funds for a second year in a row, with 17 projects totaling $656.4 million. That includes $200 million for the Alabama State Port Authority, $100 million for Department of Transportation work on the Woolsey Finnell Bridge over the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa, and $76 million for the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine.

If lawmakers can’t strike a deal on government funding this year and rely on a stopgap measure into 2023, it’s not clear whether retiring members’ projects will end up in a final omnibus negotiated in a new Congress.

“I’ll be gone. I’ll be cutting the grass and running errands for my wife,” Shelby said. “They’d start all over. I wouldn’t get anything.” Read more from Jack Fitzpatrick.

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To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com; Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com

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