Politics & Government

Alaska's Young not happy about moratorium on earmarks

House Republicans agreed Thursday to a one-year ban on all earmarks, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is not happy about it. He didn't support the decision by his caucus, said spokeswoman Meredith Kenny.

"I am elected to serve my constituents and as long as they continue to request federal funding for their projects of interest, then I will continue to do my best to accommodate them," Young said Thursday in a statement.

The Republican ban came a day after Democrats decided to ban earmarks to for-profit companies and instead shift such spending to the Defense Department budget, where small and disadvantaged business could present innovative ideas in a competitive bidding process.

Young has been unabashed about seeking earmarks, and as it has frequently been pointed out, in 2003 boasted of an appropriations bill that he had "stuffed it like a turkey."

Critics, however, have long maintained that the special spending allows powerful lawmakers — and not merit — to determine where the money goes.

Although the current furor over earmarks seems to stem more from a concern about the mushrooming federal debt, the end of the earmark era can probably be traced to the $286 billion highway bill overseen in 2005 by Young when he headed the House Transportation Committee.

The bill contained $452 million for the Gravina Island and Knik Arm spans — projects that became known nationally as "bridges to nowhere" and came to symbolize the excess of the earmark age.