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Spending earmarks persist in Congress

June 13, 2011 at 7:31 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 13 (UPI) -- Federal spending earmarks, officially banned in the U.S. Congress, live on under other guises, Capitol Hill observers say.

The $690 billion military bill the House passed in May included hundreds of millions of dollars in extra spending authorizations through a new funding mechanism called the Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund, The Boston Globe reported Monday.

The process is officially competitive, but many requests look tailored to specific beneficiaries.

Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., for example, put in $4 million "to develop innovative nanomaterials and nanomanufacturing processes for warfighter systems.''

The Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Tsongas' hometown, got a $4 million earmark from her last year, and the appropriation likely would continue it -- provided the Senate Armed Services Committee goes along.

Tsongas' amendment was just one of almost 250 that members of the House Armed Services Committee added to the Pentagon bill. Like her colleagues, Tsongas said her request is not an earmark because it requires competition for the funds.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called the earmark ban a "charade" in a letter to House Armed Services Chairman Howard McKeon, R-Calif. He disputed the claim.

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