Sen. Byrd's Legacy of Government Projects Helped Create Anti-Washington Backlash
If something was built with federal dollars in the state of West Virginia in the last half century, there is a good chance that Byrd helped get the funding -- more than $3.3 billion over his career. And that is only what such watchdogs as the Citizens Against Government Waste can attribute to him. Recent years have seen disclosure requirements for pet projects that were unheard of when Byrd became a senator in 1959.
For the current fiscal year, Byrd had more earmarks worth more money than any other lawmaker: 89 earmarks for more than $250 million.
Sen. Byrd Is Gone, but Pork Barrel Politics Likely to Persist in Some Form
When Byrd, then in poor health, relinquished his post as chairman of the Appropriations Committee in 2008, he handed the gavel over to Sen. Daniel Inouye, now the second-longest serving member of the Senate, who had $200 million worth of earmarks for the current fiscal year. The ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Thad Cochran, had more than $100 million.
Republicans will use anti-Washington spending as their main weapon in the upcoming midterm elections. But for all the new disclosure online and voters' anger about the debt, and the death and retirement and political defeat of so many appropriators, many still remain on Capitol Hill and will continue to funnel money to their states and districts.