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Congress Spent $26 Billion on Pork Barrel Projects in 2023

Members of Congress spent nearly $26.1 billion taxpayer dollars on earmarks in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, and that was a 38.1 percent increase over what they spent in FY 2022.

This, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW). The organization released its Congressional Pig Book last week.

CAGW staff said members of Congress this year increased the cost of earmarks by 38.1 percent. That’s more than seven times the 5 percent rate of inflation.

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“More than 99 percent of Democrats got earmarks compared to 49 percent of Republicans, and only two of the top 50 porkers were from the House of Representatives. The top five porkers, representing less than 1 percent of the 535 members of Congress, got $2.7 billion, equal to 10.3 percent of the total cost of earmarks,” the CAGW said. 

“The 89 members of the House and Senate appropriations committees, equal to 17 percent of Congress, got 41.4 percent of the earmarks and 29.9 percent of the money, similar to FY 2022, and proving once again that earmarks disproportionately benefit those who sit on powerful committees.”

The CAGW report cited the following pork-barrel projects, which were only a few examples among more than 7,300 others:

• Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) received “The Whole Hog Award” for 18 earmarks costing $666,406,000, by far the highest amount of any member of Congress.

• Sen. Cindy-Hyde Smith (R-Miss.) received “The Strange Bedfellows Award” for $6,000,000 for the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University in Starkville.

• Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) received “The You Cannot be Serious Award” for $250,000 for the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii, which had a fund balance of $60.7 million in 2020.

• Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) received “The Boot-Scootin’ Piggie Award” for $500,000 for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

• Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) received the “Atlantic Fleeced Award” for $4,000,000 for the Bahamian Museum of Arts and Culture in Nassau, Bahamas.

• Rep. Marc Pocan (D-Wisc.) received the “Singing a Sour Note for Taxpayers Award” for $250,000 to restore the Driver Opera House in Darlington, Wisconsin.

All items in the CAGW report meet at least one of the following seven criteria, but most satisfy at least two: 

• Requested by only one chamber of Congress

• Not specifically authorized

• Not competitively awarded

• Not requested by the president

• Greatly exceeds the president’s budget request or the previous year’s funding

• Not the subject of congressional hearings

• Serves only a local or special interest

Members of Congress overturned the 2011 earmark moratorium and formally restored them in fiscal year (FY) 2022.

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“House Democrats revived the practice, House Republicans agreed to restore them on March 17, 2021, and Senate Democrats followed suit on April 26, 2021,” according to the CAGW report.

“Senate Republicans voted to uphold the moratorium on April 21, 2021, but the agreement was non-binding, and many of them received earmarks.”

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