Did Kyl Secure an Earmark?

Senate Republicans’ ban “on earmarks — money included in a bill by a lawmaker to benefit a home-state project or interest — was short-lived,” the AP reports.

Only three days after GOP senators and senators-elect renounced earmarks, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Senate Republican, got himself a whopping $200 million to settle an Arizona Indian tribe’s water rights claim against the government.

Kyl slipped the measure into a larger bill sought by President Barack Obama and passed by the Senate on Friday to settle claims by black farmers and American Indians against the federal government. Kyl’s office insists the measure is not an earmark, and the House didn’t deem it one when it considered a version earlier this year.

But it meets the know-it-when-you-see-it test, critics say. Under Senate rules, an earmark is a spending item inserted "primarily at the request of a senator" that goes "to an entity, or (is) targeted to a specific state."

Earmarking allows lawmakers to steer federal spending to pet projects in their states and districts. Earmarks take many forms, including road projects, improvements to home district military bases, sewer projects, economic development projects. A key trait is that they are projects that haven’t been sought by the administration in power.

The money for the 15,000-member White Mountain Apache Tribe was one of four tribal water rights claims totaling almost $570 million that was added to the $5 billion-plus bill. Black farmers will get about $1.2 billion to settle claims that the Agriculture Department’s local offices discriminated against them in awarding loans and other aid. Another $3.4 billion goes to American Indians who say the Interior Department swindled them out of oil, gas and other royalties.

The House still has to act on the total package, and likely will after Congress reconvenes Nov. 29 for the continuation of a postelection, lame duck session.

A top Democrat “scornfully pointed out that the project is going to a state whose GOP lawmakers claim to oppose earmarks.”

"I do know an earmark when I see it. And this, my friends, is an earmark," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a prepared floor statement. He said Kyl’s project would help the White Mountain Apaches "make snow at their ski resort, improve water flow to their casino and build fish hatcheries to improve local fish production."

Those projects don’t appear to be directly funded by the bill, though the measure’s wording is confusing.

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Filed under Earmarks, Settlement Funding

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