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Despite Earmark Ban, Boehner Brings Home Pork-Barrel Defense Project That Pentagon Doesn’t Want

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"Despite Earmark Ban, Boehner Brings Home Pork-Barrel Defense Project That Pentagon Doesn’t Want"

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Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) likes to tout his opposition to earmarks. Indeed, since first entering Congress in 1991, the congressman has never requested a single earmark. And one of his caucus’s first moves in the new Congress has been to renew a voluntary earmark ban in the House of Representatives, making good on a major campaign promise.

Yet as CAP Senior Fellow Scott Lilly reveals in a new analysis, “No, He Wouldn’t—Would He?,” Boehner and House Republicans appear to have included an earmark-in-all-but-name for the new Speaker’s district in the newly released House Appropriations Continuing Resolution (CR). The CR includes massive cuts to important programs like Head Start and LIHEAP, but one thing it doesn’t cut is $450 million stashed away for the construction of a Joint Strike Fighter engine the Pentagon doesn’t even want.

Lilly finds that a “big portion of the funds” will go to Cincinnati, Ohio (where Boehner grew up) and Dayton, Ohio (the “largest city in his congressional district”). Pointing out that the money will go General Electric and Rolls Royce Group plants that fall within these cities, Lilly concludes that the money “looks, feels, and smells very much like an earmark“:

But buried deeply in these 359 pages of ugly surprises is a provision that would mean one community in America would do a lot better than all of the others. The legislation added an estimated $450 million for a particular bit of defense spending that the Department of Defense did not ask for and does not want.

The item is a down payment that would obligate the federal government to future payments that could well be three or four times the increased spending added to this particular piece of legislation, with a big portion of the funds flowing to two cities in Ohio—Cincinnati, where Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) grew up, and Dayton, the largest city in his congressional district.

The money will go to pay the costs to General Electric Co.’s General Electric Aviation unit and the British-owned Rolls Royce Group for their development of an engine for the new Joint Strike Fighter aircraft—money that looks, feels, and smells very much like an earmark.

Last winter, Boehner openly criticized the Obama administration’s exemption of defense spending from its discretionary spending freeze, saying that “any agency of the federal government should be exempt from rooting out wasteful spending or unnecessary spending. And I, frankly, I would agree with it at the Pentagon. There’s got to be wasteful spending there, unnecessary spending there.” Yet Boehner has been silent on defense spending since he became Speaker of the House, and it now appears that funneling money to his own district in an earmark-in-all-but-name may be part of the reason for that.

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