By Pete Kasperowicz
House Republicans are trying once again to enact a law that would prevent Congress from naming monuments, buildings or other structures after themselves.
For years, Congress has spent millions of dollars funding buildings that bear the name of current members of Congress. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) famously had dozens of buildings and roads named after him, and several others have followed suit.
Many see it as a rightful perk of Congress, although that notion is beginning to be challenged. In 2009, then-House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) fought with Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) over an earmark to spend $1 million on the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center -- she was furious when he rejected it.
Congress has also had some success in stopping certain agencies from spending money on structures named after current members. In 2008, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) was able to attach language to a 2009 Veterans-Military Construction spending bill that banned these vanity earmarks.
McCaul's new bill -- the No Monuments to Me Act (H.R. 1826) -- would permanently prevent federal money from being used to name structures after current members of Congress, or the president. The only exception would be presidential libraries.
"The question is not whether these projects are worthy of taxpayer dollars," McCaul said in a statement to The Hill. "It's a problem of perception that these projects receive special treatment because of the names they bear.
"At a minimum, when the American people see this it feeds the belief that members of Congress are arrogant and out of touch with the people we represent."
McCaul introduced his bill last week with Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.).
In late April, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) introduced his own, similar proposal -- H.R. 1689, the Prohibiting Taxpayer-Funded Monuments to Members of Congress. Turner said his bill is an expansion of language he was able to include in the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which stopped the Defense Department from spending money on these earmarks.
"As Members of Congress, we have a responsibility to our constituents to be good stewards of tax dollars," Turner said. "Using those funds to glorify and advertise ourselves is a breach of that responsibility, and American taxpayers deserve better."