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Lankford: Earmarks 'Not Appropriate,' Used As Enticements For Votes

Office of Sen. James Lankford

While Oklahoma’s senior U.S. senator has announced millions of dollars in direct funding requests, his colleague remains steadfast in opposition to earmarks.

"Senate Republicans still have in our conference rules that it is not appropriate to do earmarks — for any Senate Republican. That is still in our rules, should be in our rules, as we know what has happened in earmarks in the past is they quickly became a way to leverage individuals to vote for a bad bill," Sen. James Lankford said last week during a discussion hosted by the nonprofit Citizens Against Government Waste.

Sen. Jim Inhofe has made several funding requests, including $866,000 for Tulsa Community College’s nursing program, $20 million for a new Tulsa International Airport tower and $43 million for repairs along the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.

Lankford said addressing those kinds of needs should be hashed out by Congress during the budgeting process rather than through direct requests.

"Hitting appropriate standards is entirely appropriate. Where's the highest need? What's the critical issue on infrastructure? What is the most important bridges? All of those things are important, but it doesn't mean, 'Hey, I really want this for our state,'" Lankford said.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont is allowing earmark requests on nine of 12 spending bills. The panel’s top Republican recently said a deal on earmarks may collapse, however, if Republicans aren’t given an even split of them.

Leahy said compared to Democrats, few Republicans have filed requests so far.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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