Billions earmarked for lawmakers’ projects in federal spending bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Home-district projects for members of Congress are back, sprinkled across the government-wide $1.5 trillion bill President Joe Biden signed recently. The official tally shows amounts modest by past standards yet spread widely around the country — and that understate what lawmakers are claiming credit for.

The bipartisan measure, financing federal agencies this year, contains 4,975 such projects worth $9.7 billion, according to an Associated Press examination of items attributed to specific lawmakers in documents accompanying the bill. The listed projects, long called earmarks, ranged from $4,000 for evidence detection equipment for Huntington, West Virginia, to $350 million to help restore Florida’s vast but imperiled Everglades.

The projects’ reemergence after an 11-year hiatus, with transparency requirements and other curbs, marks a revival of expenditures that let lawmakers tout achievements to voters and help party leaders build support for legislation. While still vilified by some, especially conservatives, as emblems of influence peddling and wasteful spending, they’ve been embraced by lawmakers from both parties, who cite Congress’ constitutional power of the purse and say they know their local needs.

Retiring Sen. Richard Shelby attained $126 million for two campuses of the University of Alabama, his alma mater, including for an endowment for its flagship Tuscaloosa campus to hire science and engineering faculty. There was also hundreds of millions to improve the city of Mobile’s seaport and airport, part of an eye-popping $648 million he amassed for his state, according to the AP’s look at the legislative documents.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was next at $361 million. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had 203 projects for New York, more than anyone else, ranging from $27 million to upgrade Fort Drum’s water systems to $44,000 for neighborhood improvements in the city of Geneva, the AP found.

Explore the data:

Tip: Searching by your Congress member’s last name in “keyword search” will be the easiest way to find earmarks in your area. Note: About 150 members of Congress did not get earmarks.

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