Associated Press Modified: December 14, 2010 at 6:30 pm •  Published: December 14, 2010


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c.2010 Houston Chronicle@

WASHINGTON — Undaunted by midterm election defeats, the Senate Democratic leadership launched an aggressive push Tuesday to pass a $1.1 trillion spending measure for 2011 laden with pork-barrel projects, including earmarks for Texas.

The 1,924-page spending plan, which would fund government agencies through Sept. 30 and finance the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, represents what many lawmakers from both parties believe to be a final feeding at the trough of pork barrel spending before serious deficit-reduction attempts are undertaken by the next Congress.

Republicans, who are mostly opposed to earmark spending, take control of the House of Representatives on Jan. 5.

But in spite of heated GOP attacks on earmarks — those home-state spending projects that are sought by lawmakers — the Democratic proposal contains hundreds of earmarked projects sought by Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

The spending measure puts Texas' Republican lawmakers on the spot. While they are unanimously opposed to the overall plan, they worked hard to include some of its components.

Hutchison, for example, championed a provision that prevents the state of Texas from converting existing interstate highway lanes into toll roads. And the bipartisan Houston area delegation favors funding for NASA, the Houston Ship Center and the Texas Medical Center, all major employers in the region.

Still, Courtney Sanders, a Hutchison spokeswoman, said the veteran Republican from Dallas "will not support the omnibus when it comes up for a vote in the Senate."

"While it contains projects the senator supported, the spending bill is massive and senators have been given limited opportunity to review it and amendments have been prohibited," Sanders said. "That is the business-as-usual that Americans voted to stop."

Among the notable Texas projects:

— A $3 million earmark by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and Hutchison for a National Wind Energy Center at the University of Houston.

— A $250,000 earmark sponsored by Houston Democratic Reps. Jackson Lee, Al Green and Gene Green to help the city of Houston to reduce the backlog on testing and identifying forensic DNA samples.

? $1.5 million in Homeland Security Department spending to fund a National Emergency Response training center at Texas A&M University.

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