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Lynn Jenkins, Kansas Congresswoman, Opposes Sandy Pork Spending Despite Record

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Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas
Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas

A Republican congresswoman from Kansas who voted against the first round of Hurricane Sandy relief and noted her opposition to "pork" in the bill was attacked in 2010 by a Tea Party congressional candidate for being crowned a "porker of the month."

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), the House Republican Conference vice chairwoman, said that her vote last week against a $9.7 billion expansion of the flood insurance program to cover Hurricane Sandy victims was due to her concerns over the program's debt and the need to offset disaster funds with spending reductions. Jenkins also expressed concern with pork spending requests in the $60 billion Sandy relief package, including money that went to Alaskan fisheries and new roofs for Smithsonian museums. Jenkins joined the rest of her Kansas congressional colleagues in being the only state delegation in the nation to unanimously oppose the bill.

Jenkins wrote on Facebook:

The House will consider another disaster relief package for Sandy victims in upcoming days. I hope Congress will devise a plan to directly help Sandy victims that will be offset with spending reductions and be free of wasteful pork-barrel spending.

Congress has a responsibility to help disaster victims, but we also have a responsibility to taxpayers. Instead of rushing to pass an aid package further bankrupting an already insolvent program like the National Flood Insurance Program, I urge Congress to devise a reasonable and cost-effective disaster assistance program.

Jenkins crusade against pork in the Sandy bill comes almost four years after the Center for Government Waste named her and two other Republican freshmen as "porkers of the month" in April 2009, due to the earmarks they requested for projects in their districts. All three legislators pledged not to utilize earmarks during their 2008 campaigns. Jenkins' "porker of the month" label was the result of $2 million she requested for the reconstruction of Kasold Drive in Lawrence, Kan.

Jenkins was joined in the honors that month by Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-Cal.), who requested funds for a pedestrian bridge, and Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), who requested funds for streetlights in Cranford, along with new bike paths and a dental care center.

Lance's 2010 GOP primary opponent, David Larsen, used the "porker of the month" designation to attack Lance and Jenkins in his unsuccessful campaign, saying New Jersey should not pay for projects in Kansas.

The Lawrence money was one of several earmarks Jenkins sought for her district before the earmark ban came into effect. Others included funds for the realignment of a viaduct, facilities at the University of Kansas, military programs and genetic research on wheat.

Jenkins, a former state treasurer, also pushed in 2009 for federal disaster relief for southeast Kansas, following a series of tornadoes and flooding in the region. The money was granted by President Barack Obama.

Jenkins' spokeswoman Annie Dwyer said that her boss is concerned about the long-term solvency of the flood insurance program, noting that a redrawing of flood maps has required more Kansas residents to purchase flood insurance. The vote last week was about Jenkins' views on flood insurance, not disaster relief, Dwyer said. Jenkins believes that disaster relief for Kansas should also include cuts in other areas of federal spending, Dwyer added.

"Congresswoman Jenkins repeatedly asks for offsets to disaster relief, even for her own state," Dwyer said. "She understands the government’s responsibility to help during emergencies, but she also believes we must pay for the assistance. She considers all disaster relief bills independently, and this will include future aid legislation for Hurricane Sandy victims."

Jenkins' vote surprised Burdett Loomis, a University of Kansas political science professor. Unlike Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), who has been at war with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the national GOP establishment, Jenkins has a close relationship with Boehner, Loomis said.

The votes from Jenkins and her Kansas congressional colleagues have left state Democrats confused. They have accused the four Republicans of bowing to the wishes of the Tea Party.

"I am very disappointed, I'm confused as to why anyone would vote against relief to Americans in their time of need," Kansas Democratic Party Executive Director Jason Perkey said. "I am not surprised though because this is Lynn Jenkins, Mike Pompeo, Kevin Yoder and Tim Huelskamp, and this is what they have proven to be. They put the Tea Party first."

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