"I support the earmark process generally speaking because it gives us an opportunity to give our constituents support for things of legitimate concern," said Al Green, whose district represents much of southwest Harris County.
Republicans reacted with outrage at the Democratic tactics and said they had requested the earmarks last year, before GOP members reversed course and opposed all such projects.
"It is completely and totally inappropriate to wrap up all of this into a 2,000-page bill and try to pass it the week before Christmas," said McConnell, whose earmarks included marijuana-eradication efforts in Kentucky.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who has not requested any earmarks since 2008, said the Democrats were defying the will of the American people.
"Voters sent a clear message last month to stop the out of control deficit spending in Washington," said McCaul. "Unfortunately many members continue to demonstrate that they are tone deaf. They continue to charge the taxpayers for their pet projects and defy the will of the American people."
A group of conservative Republican senators is planning to force Senate officials to read every word of the bill's 1,924 pages in an attempt to slow down the process — and give conservatives time to whip up public consternation. The GOP would prefer a short-term, temporary spending package that did not include any earmarks and would continue government operations only until January, when House control shifts.
"We can not — and I will not — approve another huge, last minute spending bill full of earmarks to fund a bloated government," said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. "Instead of earmarking more ways to spend what we don't have, Congress should immediately start cutting the size of this government."
A spokesman for senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said he was "cautiously optimistic" that Democrats could muster the 60 votes needed to shut off an all-but-certain GOP filibuster attempt.
(E-mail: Richard.dunham(at)chron.com; stewart.powell(at)chron.com)