WASHINGTON — Tucked into the folds of the federal government’s latest $1.5 trillion spending bill lies more than $280 million to fund initiatives for Texans. Those projects range from expanding the San Antonio police department’s mental health unit and improving flood mitigation in coastal counties to planting a sustainable community garden at a high school and building a Gandhi museum in Houston.
The money comes from a federal budgeting practice known as earmarking, in which members of Congress request direct funding to their local districts. The practice was banned by Republicans after they won control of Congress during the 2010 midterm election, citing fiscal responsibility, but this past year, Democrats brought the practice back with some additional safeguards in place.
A number of Texas Republicans — including those who wield considerable influence in Congress — sat out of the process to bring home the proverbial pork.
That includes U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth — the highest-ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, which plays a key role in evaluating and negotiating funding requests — and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who was previously the second highest-ranking Republican in the Senate. Both members previously pulled tens of millions of dollars in earmarks for Texas before the practice was initially banned.
In Texas, 19 out of Texas’ 38-member congressional delegation — all 13 Democrats and six Republicans — submitted requests and received funding.