Politicians like to confuse congressional spending with earmarks. There is a difference. The Constitution of the United States (Article I, Section 7) vests the power to raise and spend federal revenue solely to the House of Representatives.
I firmly believe that the most important feature of spending the people's money is complete transparency. Any spending should be debated openly on the floor of the House and voted on in open session, with the American people having a chance to watch and listen.
That is why in 2008 I took the position that I would oppose all earmarks. Earmarks, unlike Article I, Section 7, require no transparency. In fact, it undermines the transparency and debate necessary by allowing individual members of Congress to obligate funds to their districts without giving the body as a whole the chance to weigh them against national priorities.
Earmarks are almost always inserted by a member of Congress without any notice to other members, and without a chance for Congress as a whole to debate a particular earmark as they relate to national priorities. This year the Republican caucus in the House voted to abstain from all earmarks.
I am hopeful that this process will lead to the transparency that the American people want. More importantly, it is my hope that it will lead to a vigorous public discussion of national priorities before appropriating taxpayer funds.
Cross Posted at Vote Marsha.com