It didn’t take long for many in Congress to ignore the will of the American people on earmarking special projects for states and districts. The Tea Party movement has a long way to convince members of both parties that the corrupting and wasteful practice of earmarking has to end. Later this month, Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) are expected to have to fight against an Omnibus Appropriations bill on the Senate floor in the Lame Duck session that is expected to be loaded up with earmarks.
According to National Journal (subscription required), some Senate Democrats and Republicans are teaming up with House Democrats to earmark.
Senate Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much, but they appear to have found common ground in favor of the practice of congressionally directed spending, also known as earmarking.
The Senate will come back into session the week of November 15th and Congress is expected to complete the appropriations work for Fiscal Year 2011. Rumors have been swirling on Capitol Hill that some Senate Republicans have been teaming up with House Democrats to craft an Omnibus Appropriations bill, one that would fund all discretionary agencies for the year. That Omnibus spending bill may be loaded with earmarks.
National Journal reports that House Republican Leaders are solidly against earmarking. The House Republican conference has adopted a rule against earmarking and they are expected to pass the same rule for the next Congress:
Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., who is seeking to become House majority leader in the Republican-run House next year, this week called for an extension of the current House Republican earmark moratorium. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, next year’s likely House speaker, is expected to heed Cantor’s call and seek to extend the ban to the current fiscal year, which began October 1.
Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is outraged that Republican Senators are secretly crafting an Omnibus budget busting spending bill, in order to cut out House Republicans who would oppose the measure’s size and inclusion of earmarks.
In what could be a preview of clashes between Republican purists and pragmatists, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday blasted plans by Senate Republicans to collaborate with Democrats and push through a $1 trillion catch-all spending bill. “Any effort by you or the present Democrat leadership to move a budget-busting omnibus spending measure will be met with my unequivocal opposition,” wrote Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, the committee’s ranking Republican, in a letter to Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis. “Further, I will strongly encourage every Republican Member of the Committee, my leadership, and the entire Republican Conference to oppose such legislation.”
National Journal is not the only outlet reporting this deal. The Hill reports that House Republicans are worried that lobbyists have teamed up with pro-earmark forces in Congress to load the Omnibus with earmarks.
The two biggest points of contention are likely to be the overall spending level and whether earmarks are included. The House GOP leader, Rep. John Boehner (Ohio), joined more than four dozen Republicans in signing a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier this month calling for no earmarks to be included in the omnibus legislation. “Taxpayers deserve to have appropriations legislation considered in an open and transparent process,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was drafted by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a prominent earmark foe. “At a minimum, taxpayers should be protected from thousands of unvetted earmarks, produced by a process driven by a spoils system, being stuffed into any end-of-year appropriations measure and shielded from review.” Democrats may balk at that request, particularly if they lose control of the House. The omnibus would be the last opportunity to fund pet projects while the party has full control of the budget process. “Democrats are hell-bent on getting their earmarks,” said one appropriations lobbyist.
What’s an earmark? In general, it is a provision inserted in the text of a Congressional bill or report that allocates money or a tax benefit for a specific project, program, or organization, circumventing a merit-based or competitive allocation process. There are many reasons to be “against earmarks.” Earmarks provide federal funding for projects benefiting only a state or local interest, or a private company, university or non-profit. In other words, most earmark-funded projects do not benefit the nation as a whole — though the “giving” of an earmark by a Member of Congress certainly benefits that Member. While spending on earmarks may be a small percentage of the overall federal budget, the dollar amount and number of earmarks (over 9,000 earmarks totaling over $15 billion last year alone) is still quite large. And this is saying nothing of the fact that the 535 Members of the House and Senate last year requested over 40,000 earmarks!
Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) defines an earmark for a video put out by Taxpayers Against Earmarks.
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