Texas officials in D.C. feel the sting of new ban on earmarks

WASHINGTON — Fort Worth City Council members on a legislative visit to the Capitol this week got something of a surprise as they visited North Texas delegation members to ask for earmarks: There were none to be had.

House Republicans had just voted to forgo earmarks for a year when the members made their rounds Thursday. House Democrats and Senate Republicans weren't any more encouraging about the outlook on earmarks for the rest of the year.

Council members Frank Moss, Carter Burdette and Joel Burns, accompanied by Reid Rector, director of governmental relations for Fort Worth, met with Reps. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth; Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville; and Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, as well as staff members for Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, and Texas GOP Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn.

"We're looking for congressionally directed spending," Rector said. "We don't say the e-word."

The council members were asking for $2.5 million to finish the preliminary engineering work for Tower 55, the railroad bottleneck in downtown Fort Worth; $4 million for permanent housing for the homeless; and $10 million for the new police and fire training academy.

Rector said the Fort Worth contingent forged ahead and "outlined our program" but learned that Democrats and Senate members may not be able to help, either.

"We didn't get encouraging words from anybody," Rector said. He added that Edwards, chairman of an appropriations subcommittee, told the council members that "they're just going to have to wait and see how this evolves."