U.S. Representative Lloyd Smucker, R-Pa.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker of the 11th congressional district is interviewed at Greenfield Park in East Lampeter Township on Nov. 24, 2020.

THE ISSUE

As LNP | LancasterOnline’s Colin Evans reported Tuesday, “Pennsylvania’s 18 members of the U.S. House secured nearly $140 million for projects in their districts under the $1.5 trillion spending bill enacted last month. But none of that money is headed to Lancaster County or the southern portion of York County represented by Republican Lloyd Smucker. Smucker did not submit any ‘earmark’ requests for projects in the 11th District, according to the House Committee on Appropriations.” Just two other Pennsylvania House members, including Republican Scott Perry of York County, declined to submit earmarks, according to a New York Times analysis. Smucker also voted against the domestic spending bill, decrying what he called “reckless spending,” but he voted separately in favor of the defense spending proposal, which included $13 billion in aid to Ukraine. The omnibus spending bill signed by President Joe Biden on March 15 was the first in more than a decade to contain earmarks.

So, Congressman Smucker, just what have you done for Lancaster County lately?

While we appreciate that you voted for aid to Ukraine, we’d also like it if you brought home some funding for projects here.

It’s not as if we are lacking in public facilities in need of repair, for instance, or nonprofits doing essential work that need more funding. Securing federal money for worthy projects that directly benefit your constituents would be the opposite of “reckless.”

We also noticed that you voted against the Affordable Insulin Now Act, which would cap insulin prices at either $35 a month or 25% of a health insurance plan’s negotiated price, whichever is lower. Your colleague, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, was among the 12 Republicans who voted in favor of the measure, which passed in the House.

Insulin, you surely know, is a life-sustaining medication for many people with diabetes.

But you may not know that nearly 1 in 10 Lancaster County residents ages 20 and older have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis in March found that with a $35 per month cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs per product, “savings could be substantial in some cases for people who use insulin. Over 1 in 20 insulin users whose costs currently exceed the cap in the private insurance markets pay more than $150 per month per insulin product.”

Perhaps you believe, as your colleague, Rep. Matt Gaetz from Florida does, that people with diabetes should just lose weight.

“While Democrat posturing of H.R. 6833 victimizes insulin payees as people with an uncontrollable disease that are being taken advantage of and need Big Brother to throw them a raft, lifestyle changes en masse would expeditiously lower demand and the subsequent prices of insulin,” Gaetz wrote in a newsletter to his constituents.

We always will advocate for healthy living. But not everyone with diabetes is obese, and those who are deserve compassion. They should be able to afford insulin if they need it.

It’s hard to say whether the Senate will pass a law capping the costs of insulin. But we wish our representative in the House had supported the measure.

What are your thoughts, Congressman Smucker? Are you opposed to throwing a “raft” to Lancaster County residents who are paying inflated prices for the insulin they need to stay alive?

As for earmarks — rebranded as community project funding — we are well aware that these specific funding outlays are often derided as pork. But as The New York Times analysis shows, the money sought by lawmakers for their districts also can be put to good use.

Among the beneficiaries of the recent earmarks: police departments, colleges, hospitals, museums, agricultural projects, substance abuse and violence prevention programs, port authorities, affordable housing programs.

E. Fletcher McClellan, professor of political science at Elizabethtown College, told LNP | LancasterOnline’s Evans that “many political scientists see earmarking, or ‘pork barrel’ spending, as helpful to the legislative process.”

This is because earmarking can encourage compromise on complex spending bills.

As McClellan put it, “one man’s pork barrel project is another person’s necessity.”

And, as Evans noted, more stringent guidelines have been built into the earmarking process: Members of Congress now are required to post their funding requests online and certify they have no financial interest in their district’s projects. Money also must go to local and state governments or nonprofits.

“Congress is looking to avoid repeating infamous corruption scandals of the late 2000s that tainted the practice,” Evans noted.

This was a good call.

Evans cited examples of earmarks that struck us appropriate: “In March, Rep. Matt Cartwright, a Democrat, obtained the highest dollar amount in earmarks for the 8th District, which includes all or parts of five counties in northeastern Pennsylvania. The $19.6 million he secured included funding for projects to combat gun violence and improve fire and police services.”

And “Republican Rep. Dan Meuser, whose 9th District lies just to the north of Smucker’s, obtained $14 million for projects, according to the New York Times analysis, ranging from local infrastructure upgrades to improvements to higher education facilities, according to his website.”

Six Republican lawmakers from Pennsylvania secured a total of nearly $57 million for projects in their districts, Evans reported.

Winning earmarked funds is a return on the investment of the tax dollars we send to Washington, D.C. But Smucker essentially turned down this funding, to the detriment of Lancaster and York counties.

There are times when rigid political ideology diminishes a congressperson’s usefulness to his or her constituents.

Republican Sens. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama (the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee), Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Roy Blunt of Missouri seem to understand this. They did not let disapproval from their fellow party members stop them from getting funding for community projects in their states. As The New York Times noted, they “racked up some of the biggest hauls.”

Congressman Smucker: You like to wax about government spending and the costs to future generations. You raised no such concerns, however, when you enthusiastically voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which you dubbed a “game-changer.” Which it was, if the goal was to balloon the federal budget deficit.

In November, you voted against the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill — now law — that will help to repair the nation’s roads and bridges, replace dangerous lead pipes carrying water, bolster internet service in rural areas and modernize the power grid.

So we end where we began: Just what have you done for your constituents lately?

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