U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson is at it again.
In January 2022, the Republican made news in Iowa and nationally when she took credit for "game-changing" projects in her district, despite having voted against the infrastructure bill that made them possible.
Hinson is closing out the year by bashing the "wasteful spending" in an omnibus budget bill, while boasting about her success in "securing investments for Iowa" through the same legislation.
The U.S. House approved the $1.7 trillion spending bill by 225 votes to 201 on December 23, ensuring that the federal government will be funded through fiscal year 2023, which ends next September 30. The House Appropriations Committee published details on funds allocated to each major area of the federal budget.
As expected, Iowa's delegation split along party lines, with Democratic Representative Cindy Axne supporting the bill and Hinson voting no, along with Republicans Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Randy Feenstra.
In comments posted to their social media feeds, Hinson and Feenstra complained that the bill didn't secure the southern border, and said House Republicans had been excluded from final negotiations. That's because House GOP leaders opposed any long-term funding legislation, hoping to gain more leverage after Republicans gain control of the chamber in January.
In contrast, Senate Republican leaders had considerable input on the omnibus, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed victory on several fronts. (Eighteen GOP senators voted for the budget bill in the upper chamber on December 22; Iowa's Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst opposed its passage.)
Hinson characterized the "wasteful spending" in the omnibus bill as a "disservice to hardworking Americans and Iowans." She promised the coming Republican majority in the House would "restore fiscal responsibility in Washington."
But one person's waste is another person's community development. In the same statement that slammed the omnibus bill and claimed Republicans were "shut out" from negotiations, Hinson noted, "I was successful in securing investments for Iowa in this legislation and am glad they were included in the final bill." A news release sent to her press list provided background on thirteen requests that made it into the omnibus.
How did she manage that? The House Appropriations Committee allowed all representatives—Republicans as well as Democrats—to submit up to fifteen "Community Project Funding" requests for fiscal year 2023. Axne, Hinson, and Miller-Meeks did so.
Every one of Axne's requests made it into the omnibus. Most of Hinson's and Miller-Meeks' did too. The projects will cover road construction, emergency services, neighborhood revitalization, community college programs, and other work in rural and urban areas. Some of the spending could benefit many Iowa communities, such as $1 million for "advanced hydrologic monitoring, assessment, and flood forecasting" at the University of Iowa's flood center (requested by Hinson and Miller-Meeks).
But to be clear: none of that spending would be on track if House Republicans had gotten their way and blocked a budget bill from reaching President Joe Biden's desk this week.
And while the House GOP caucus voted in November against banning earmarks for the next Congress, Republican leaders have promised to cut non-defense discretionary spending. That includes the buckets funding most of this year's earmarks.
It's fair game for Hinson to brag about federal projects in her district when she voted to spend those dollars. For instance, she supported the omnibus budget bills for fiscal year 2022, which the House approved in March (see roll calls here and here). Those bills included most of Hinson's community project requests, and she had asked for $26.4 million worth—more than the combined total of earmarked spending Axne and Miller-Meeks had sought. (So much for "fiscal responsibility"!)
But it's the height of hypocrisy for Hinson to tout "vital community projects" when she voted against allocating funds to them in the coming year.
The reality is that Axne and other House Democrats, not Hinson, made those investments in northeast Iowa possible.
Top image: U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson speaks to a constituent on December 22, cropped from a photo posted on her official Twitter feed.
Years ago, I used to dread reading the lists of national earmark projects. They usually included at least a few awful water projects that had severe environmental impacts, along with eyebrow-raising cost/benefit ratios.
These Iowa lists seem reasonable. I know little about the road projects, but hope they are reasonable. I hope the lists in other states are reasonable as well. I especially hope we won't return to the bad old days of awful water-project earmarks, especially west of the Missouri River.