WASHINGTON — Rep. Gene Taylor, D-4, not only does not apologize for submitting more than $200 million in earmark requests, he says it is Congress' Constitutional duty to "control the purse strings."
Taylor made his requests Monday, the deadline for submissions for the next fiscal year, amid extraordinary controversy over the use of earmarks — federal spending dictated by a lawmaker for a specific project or purpose.
More than half of Taylor's funding request is for the military, including $14.8 million for a high-speed assault craft, and the rest for projects in his district, such as $10 million to dredge the Port of Gulfport for a deepwater port.
"I can defend every one of them," he said of the earmarks.
Taylor's defense of earmarks comes against a backdrop of controversy: the House GOP Conference voted last week to forego earmarks for one year, arguing they have added to the deficit and have become symbols of Washington corruption and cronyism.
While the Mississippian is not about to back off the earmark system, he said, "the good thing that came out of this is accountability and transparency."
Lawmakers now must post their earmarks on their Web sites and disclose what the project is for, as well as pledge that neither they nor their families have a financial interest in it.
Taylor said that the military and local communities ask for funding and he and his staff go over the requests and rank them.
And his batting average?
“Historically, I have done very well for the national defense program,” he said.
Taylor also cited the effort to deepen the Gulfport Channel, first from 30 feet to 36 feet and now, for a deepwater port of 45 feet.
“You can have a beautiful port, but if it’s not deep enough, ships won’t come to you.”
As for the Republican moratorium on earmarks, Taylor laughed and said, “Don’t kid yourself that they’re walking away from earmarks.”
The chairman of a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee, Taylor said he is constantly being asked by Republicans to support their projects.
He will, he said, “if their project makes sense.’
He points out what he says is the GOP inconsistency on earmarks.
“The ones screaming the most, the ones who like the president the least, then let the president decide,” he said, by leaving the funding up to the Obama administration.
Why are Republicans doing it, then?
“It sounds good,” said Taylor. “I don’t ask for an earmark unless I can defend it.”