Government funding bill passed by Congress includes millions for Northwest Interior projects

WASHINGTON — After launching the box on the road for six months with stopgap measures, last week Congress finally did its most fundamental job and passed a $1.5 trillion bill to fund the government. federal.

The legislation was notable for several reasons, including avoiding a government shutdown and funding President Joe Biden’s priorities more than a year after taking office. Along with billions in emergency aid to Ukraine that drew broad bipartisan support, the bill also saw the return of earmarking, a process that allows lawmakers to request money for specific projects to their constituents.

Republicans were split on both the inclusion of so-called “member-directed spending” and the legislation as a whole, which was split into two parts in the House before being combined into a single bill. law in the Senate. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, voted for only one of two House bills, opposing the portion that included most non-defense spending, including reauthorizing funds for the Violence Against Women Act, National Flood Insurance Program and more.

“I voted for the security program that funds border security, U.S. law enforcement, and our troops — including our airmen and women at Fairchild Air Force Base,” she said. in a press release. “It also includes important security assistance for the freedom-loving people of Ukraine who are resisting Vladimir Putin and his evil attacks.”

As some of her fellow Republicans opted out of the revamped allocation process, McMorris Rodgers opted in and got $22.8 million for projects in eastern Washington, though she ultimately voted against it. the bill that included those funds. This includes $3.5 million for a new sewage system in Malden, the Whitman County town devastated by a 2020 wildfire, and the same amount to provide clean water to Airway Heights, including the water supply is contaminated with chemicals from nearby Fairchild Air Force Base.

“I believe this funding will help improve lives, build stronger communities, and make a real difference,” the Spokane Republican said.

While appropriations make up a small proportion of the total bill — only about 1% of discretionary spending — supporters say they direct money to important projects that might otherwise not get federal funding and encourage cooperation among governments. legislators at a time of growing partisan polarization.

Critics, meanwhile, warn the practice could bring back the corruption and frivolous spending that led to postings being banned for a decade, though the new program includes tougher transparency measures.

Northern Idaho will not receive any earmarked funds after the region’s three GOP lawmakers, Rep. Russ Fulcher and Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, chose not to seek the money. Like McMorris Rodgers, Fulcher voted for the House bill that included defense spending and against the other bill.

“The horrific images of the bombed-out children’s hospital and civilian deaths have made clear the URGENT need to get American aid and safety equipment to Ukraine,” Fulcher said in a statement, referring to the Wednesday bombing by Russian forces of a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Fulcher said he couldn’t support most of the spending bill’s provisions, citing funds that could go to abortion providers, COVID-19 aid and more.

He said he was happy that the bill was split in two so that he could vote for the provisions he supported. Although it passed with broad bipartisan support, some progressive Democrats opposed the bill Fulcher voted for, which also included funding for the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. intelligence agencies and Moreover.

“I voted FOR sending arms to Ukraine and I voted AGAINST the Liberal wish list priorities in the second bill,” Fulcher said. “I urge my fellow Democrats to take politics out of this process and deal with the dangerous situation abroad, without tying the strings to their own liberal agenda.”

Crapo, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement that he voted against the final spending bill despite his support for $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, including about half goes to the Pentagon while much of the rest funds humanitarian aid.

“I support the United States providing additional resources to Ukraine to defend against barbaric attacks from Russia, and I would have voted to fund aid to Ukraine as a stand-alone measure,” Crapo said. “However, with inflation reaching 40-year highs, I could not agree to a sweeping spending package that does not go far enough to address wasteful spending programs and our unsustainable debt crisis.”

Representative Mike Simpson, another Republican who represents the eastern half of Idaho, voted for both parts of the package in the House and won $23.6 million for his district, including $7 million for a new fire station for the Shoshone-Bannock tribes.

“While this process is far from perfect, I voted yes on this legislation because the final package contains tremendous gains for Idaho and the nation,” Simpson said in a statement. “These victories include record funding for the Idaho National Laboratory, increased funding to deal with the ongoing border crisis, a ban on listing the sage-grouse as an endangered species, the maintenance of pro-life protections enacted and the strengthening of our nation’s military readiness.”

Washington senators, who were eligible for more total funding because they represent the entire state, got a total of more than $164 million in assignments.

Sen. Patty Murray, the second Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, the committee charged with funding the government, got a total of nearly $113 million. Some projects were requested by multiple lawmakers, including the Malden sewer system, for which Murray requested $750,000 while McMorris Rodgers requested $6 million.

Among 51 other projects across the state, Murray has committed $3 million to a project that will widen South Barker Road in the Spokane Valley between Mission Avenue and the southern city limit.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., secured a total of $51.7 million for 40 projects in Washington, including $1 million for a transportation and logistics center at Spokane International Airport.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, voted for both parts of the legislation in the House and won $16.5 million for eight projects in his central Washington district, including $1 million to help relocate the Walla Walla County 911 Emergency Operations and Dispatch Center, which now sits in a location vulnerable to earthquakes and flooding. Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers have jointly committed $2 million to a groundwater replacement program in Cashmere.

In the House, the portion of the legislation that included defense spending passed by a vote of 361 to 69, while the nondefense bill drew less GOP support but still passed. by a vote of 260 to 171. In the Senate, the combined legislation passed by a vote of 68 to 31. The bill will fund the government until the end of the fiscal year, September 31.

About Michael S. Montanez

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