U.S. House passes $1.5 trillion spending package, millions in Georgia earmarks

Coronavirus funding stripped after lawmakers from Georgia and other states protested potential losses
Two helicopters from Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta perform a fly-over before the start of the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart Sunday, July 11, 2021, at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)



Two helicopters from Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta perform a fly-over before the start of the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart Sunday, July 11, 2021, at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House has approved a $1.5 trillion bill that sets new federal government spending levels and funds agencies through October. The massive package also includes tens of millions of dollars in earmarks for Georgia.

The projects range from $30,000 for the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse to new helicopter parking at Moody Air Force Base that received more than $12 million. However, most Republicans in Georgia’s delegation chose not to request funding for any projects, citing past abuses and concerns about government spending and the rising national debt.

Democrats on the other hand celebrated the money they were bringing home to their districts. Rep. Lucy McBath received funding for seven projects worth about $4 million. Her counterpart and primary rival, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, said the 10 line items she backed totaled $5 million.

“These projects include funding to help hire veterans, expand early learning in underinvested communities, promote infrastructure innovation, support minority business opportunity, and increase investment in local schools and so much more,” the Suwanee Democrat said.

Approval of the omnibus spending package hit a snag Wednesday morning when language tied to $16 billion in coronavirus prevention and treatment was interpreted as penalizing states such as Georgia that hadn’t yet received all the funding promised in an earlier COVID-19 relief bill. The delay ended only after the COVID-19 dollars and related language were removed from the package.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock said he was among the lawmakers who pushed for changes to be made.

“Earlier today, I urged leaders in Congress to remove an awful provision from the gov’t funding bill that would have cut $434 million of Georgia’s much-needed COVID relief funds,” he wrote on Twitter. “I’m glad this issue was resolved, and I will always fight to ensure Washington treats Georgia fairly.”

The coronavirus funding request has now been placed in a stand-alone bill that will receive a vote in the coming days, and the controversial language affecting Georgia and 29 other states was removed.

Once that issue was settled, the House moved to bring the government spending package to the floor. It was split into two votes to allow lawmakers who support the defense and national security provisions to vote in favor of that while opposing the rest of the legislation.

The military and defense language passed overwhelmingly, 361-69. Georgia Reps. Andrew Clyde, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jody Hice were among the 54 Republicans who voted “no” alongside 15 liberal Democrats.

The rest of the spending bill was approved by a narrower margin but still with bipartisan support, 260-171. Georgia’s delegation split along party lines with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter was among the lawmakers who said he supported the defense spending, including emergency aid to Ukraine, while opposing the larger package over the rushed timeline for approval. The final version of the 2,741-page bill was released early Wednesday morning.

“I recognize that the crisis unfolding in Ukraine is more important than the politicization in Washington, which is why I voted yes for the defense package,” the Pooler Republican said in a statement Wednesday night.

The House also passed by voice vote a stop-gap measure to extend current government funding a few more days to ensure the Senate has time to pass the omnibus package without risking a government shutdown.

For the first time in over a decade, the spending package includes funding that lawmakers requested for local, district-based projects. Georgia’s six Democrats in the House, two Democratic senators, Carter and Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk requested and received funding for dozens of projects.

More dollars to fund transportation and infrastructure projects for Georgia also are found in the bill as a result of a separate, preexisting request process.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson saw eight projects that he championed receive funding that totaled about $5 million.

“Ensuring that constituents in Georgia’s Fourth District have the resources we need to make our community healthier, safer, stronger, and even more resilient is my number one priority,” the Lithonia Democrat said in a statement. “These investments support underserved areas and foster economic development, making a real difference in the lives of so many in our community.”

Georgia projects earmarked in the omnibus

A list of approved projects in Georgia with price tags above $2 million, including the name of the lawmaker(s) who submitted the proposal.

Moody Air Force Base helicopter parking apron, $12.5 million, Sen. Jon Ossoff, Sen. Raphael Warnock

Atlanta to Savannah Passenger Rail Environmental Impact Statement, $8 million, Ossoff

City of McIntyre and Wilkinson County Sewer System, $6.3 million, Ossoff, Warnock

Georgia Institute of Technology Coastal Infrastructure and Resilience Research Initiative, $5 million, Rep. Buddy Carter, Ossoff, Warnock

Southeast Georgia Health System Inc. for facilities and equipment, $5 million, Warnock

University of Georgia, Johnny Isakson Center for Brain Science and Neurological Disorders, $5 million, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina

Fort Stewart Barracks planning and design, $5 million, Ossoff, Warnock

Cass-White Road from Busch Drive to Great Valley Parkway- Phase II, $5 million, Rep. Barry Loudermilk

Atlanta BeltLine, $5 million, Ossoff, Warnock

Heart of Georgia Railroad Rehabilitation and Upgrades, $5 million, Warnock

MARTA Operations and Maintenance Facility, $5 million, Warnock

Augusta-Richmond County water and sewer, $3.9 million, Warnock

MARTA Electric Vehicle Buses, $3.9 million, Ossoff, Warnock

Fort Gordon Cyber Center of Excellence, $3.7 million, Warnock

Augusta University Medical Center MRI equipment, $3.5 million, Ossoff

Augusta-Richmond County stormwater, $3.2 million, Warnock

City of Atlanta Center for Diversion and Services Pilot Program, $3 million, Warnock

Fort Valley State University to expand the Cooperative Development Program, $3 million, Warnock

Truman Linear Park Trail, $3 million, Warnock

Driskell Park, Albany, $3 million, Rep. Sanford Bishop

Johnson Rocks Revetment Project, Glynn County, $2.9 million, Carter

Forest Service Land Acquisition, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest $2.6 million, Warnock

Chattahoochee RiverLands Environmental Review and Final Design for Phase II, $2.5 million, Rep. David Scott, Ossoff, Warnock

Spelman College information technology upgrades, $2.5 million, Ossoff

Ritz Theater and Cultural Center, Albany, $2.2 million, Bishop

Hosea Helps Care Facility and Program Expansion Project , $2.2 million, Rep. Nikema Williams

Augusta University’s Primary Care Pathway Program, $2.1 million, Warnock

Meals On Wheels Atlanta, $2 million, Warnock

Big Shanty Widening, Kennesaw, $2 million, Loudermilk

Community Food Hub Southwest Georgia Project, $2 million, Bishop