Wicker: We'll get by minus earmarks

By Emily LeCoz / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A two-year ban on earmarks shouldn’t shrivel Mississippi’s share of federal dollars, because they can be secured through other funding mechanisms, said U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
Wicker, a longtime defender of earmarks who late last year voted for the ban, spoke to the Daily Journal before a prayer event Monday for Republican Congressman-elect Alan Nunnelee.
Nunnelee will take office Wednesday with a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
“Members of the House and Senate will have a say on how the money is spent,” Wicker said. “And with Alan on the Appropriations Committee and me on the Armed Services Committee, we’ll be able to obtain funding through those channels.”
Mississippi ranks second only to California as the nation’s largest earmark recipient, having received $2.1 billion in federal dollars since 2008, according to the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., was the Senate’s top earmark recipient in Fiscal Year 2010, having secured more than $497 million for a variety of projects mostly benefiting Mississippi.
Despite initial if reluctant support in the Republican conference for his party’s stance on the ban, Cochran voted against it when it reached the Senate floor.
Wicker was third top recipient in the Senate last year, with more than $368 million in earmarks. But most of Wicker’s earmarks came from jointly sponsored appropriations, usually with Cochran.
Alone, Wicker had drummed up about $2 million.
“The earmark process has become a symbol of wasteful spending, which is why the American people got turned off by the system,” Wicker said. “We’ll take a break and monitor it for two years and see if we can save some money for the American people.”
Nunnelee ran his campaign on fiscal conservatism and said he supports congressional efforts, like the earmark moratorium, to save taxpayers money.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.