Bus stop equity and artist dens: Inside Congress' spending on 'pet projects'

"[I]t's so frustrating because the country cannot cannot fathom the spending that both Republicans and Democrats are having," Rep. Ralph Norman laments
Rep. Norman

Racial equity projects for bus stops in California. An expanded LGBTQ center in Philadelphia. An artist den in New York city. Such taxpayer-funded pet projects – known as earmarks – fill the pages of a proposed spending package that Republicans, who have long opposed such provisions, unveiled as part of the compromise plan with Democrats to avert a government shutdown.

House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last week reached an agreement to delay the deadlines to pass 12 appropriations bills to fund the government, while also agreeing on a package of the first six measures.

"We are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund our government. Negotiators have come to an agreement on six bills: Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice and Science, Energy and Water Development, Interior, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD," read a joint statement from Schumer, Johnson, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In total, the 1,000+ page package includes 605 pages of earmarks, many of which provide taxpayer funding to fringe left-wing social projects that Republicans broadly oppose. In a thread on X, South Carolina GOP Rep. Ralph Norman highlighted some of what he deemed the most egregious carveouts in the package.

$1.65 million would go to an artist living space in New York. New York Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman requested the funds last year saying they would go to "Environmental Leaders of Color (ELOC)" to "create 317 units of mixed-income housing, artist live/workspace, parking, and ground floor community facility space in a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly building in the city's south side."

Democratic Florida Rep. Kathy Castor secured $1.1 million for electric bus charging stations in the Sunshine State.

The city of Norwalk, Calif., for instance would receive $850,000 for a "Bus Stop Equity Project" as part of the deal, which came at the request of California Sen. Alex Padilla.

In Philadelphia, $1 million would go to the William Way Renovation and Expansion Project to enlarge an LGBT community center of the same name. Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle as well as Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman requested that earmark.

$1 million would go toward an "EV infrastructure masterplan" in Chicago at the request of Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.

Another $1 million would go to a climate assessment in Rhode Island. Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed sought the allocation.

Not all earmarks came from Democrats either. Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie highlighted the $5 million earmark for sugarcane research sought by Louisiana GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy and Louisiana GOP Rep. Garrett Graves.

"A spoonful of sugar helps the omnibus go down," Massie quipped.

Speaking on the Just the News, No Noise television show, Norman called the plan "embarrassment for the American people" and pointed to an array of earmarks and funding for "pet projects" that feature in the package.

"850,000 for a bus stop equity in California," he said. "1.8 million to expand an Arab LGBTQ community center, whatever that is, a million for EV infrastructure, $190,000 for [a] shark repellant study, lawyers fees paid for illegals."

"This is an embarrassment," he declared. "And we will continue to meet with Speaker Johnson to do two things. One, the only thing this administration has given us is a treasure [trove] of things to cut that the American people don't deserve to have put out, to have more additional debt to the 34 trillion and the pork and the earmarks."

"We're going to expose this to the hilt. And but the overriding issue is the government with this budget with this minibus as you call it for the six appropriation bills, they are saying let's fund [the] government but let's not stop the invasion at the border," Norman asserted. "Anything that we consider ought to have a shutdown of the invasion at the border."

Norman, on the program, further indicated that he did not expect to see any spending cuts in the near future.

"[I]t's so frustrating because the country cannot cannot fathom the spending that both Republicans and Democrats are having," he lamented. "[S]ome of the small items that they say that more cuts through the FBI were cuts in different small programs, pales in comparison to the spending that ought to be cut. And it's just not that."

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., a fellow member of Freedom Caucus that has fought for spending reductions for years, agreed that taxpayers won't see any meaningful cuts or border security reforms until after the 2024 election at the earliest.

"Members are going to actually vote to continue the current policies of unbridled spending and unmitigated illegal foreign nationals pouring across our border," Perry said during an interview Monday on the John Solomon Reports podcast.

The South Carolina lawmaker is far from the only conservative to highlight the abundant earmarks in the package. On the Senate side, Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott sounded the alarm on their pervasiveness, pointing to "605 PAGES OF EARMARKS" in the package.

"Earmarks corrupt government. Earmarks turn Republicans Democrat. No Republican should support them. No Republican should vote for this bill," Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee posted.

Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy, meanwhile, said the legislation is "littered with earmarks, fails to secure the border, & punts almost every GOP policy win - thus, will fund most of Biden’s lawlessness & tyranny."

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.