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  • Will 2010 Be an Earmark Free Zone?

    According to Roll Call, during a Democrat strategy session last week Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) broached the idea of suspending earmarks during the 2010 appropriations process. And even though the reasons cited were mostly political – this fiscal restraint would come as welcome relief to the average everyday American.

    Earmarks have long been considered an emblem of Washington, DC corruption, waste and abuse. Earmark supporters will make such arguments as “the total amount of spending on earmarks is minimal,” or “why should we let bureaucrats spend federal dollars, when we know where the money should go.” But these desperate arguments miss the point. Earmarks are not only a classic sign of favoritism but they grease the wheels for ever higher levels of government spending.

    Additionally, there are so many earmarks now (in 2009 there were estimated to be 11,914 for a total of over $20 billion) that abuse is bound to happen. Remember the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

    In 2007 a similar effort was undertaken by a Republican majority. In that case the Republican majority refused to fund over 10,000 earmarks that were left over in FY 2007 appropriations bills from the previous year. This ended up being a one shot deal though as the FY 2008 earmark process continued with earmarks unabated. But this is a good idea whose time may have come again. This moratorium should also have backing from the Administration as President Obama has also been an advocate for reducing earmarks. Specifically, the President proposed that:

    • The annual cost of earmarks should be no greater than $7.8 billion, the level they were at in 1994, when the Republicans took control of Congress; and
    • Any earmark for a for-profit company should be subject to the same competitive bidding requirements as other federal contracts.

    To a disgruntled, disillusioned, dispirited American populace a truly effective earmark moratorium would come as welcome relief. But it has to be legitimate and not just window dressing and more of the same. Some ideas to give it teeth include:

    • A Practical Working Definition. As my colleague Ron Utt notes earmarks are a bit like pornography – you know it when you see it but it is hard to find a good definition. Earmarks are so widely used and abused that it is hard to get a firm plan for reduction when they can so easily be moved or re-named.
    • Active Administration Support. In 2007 Members quickly found a way around the ban by calling and intimidating federal agency personnel into honoring the earmarks. To truly uphold any ban effectively President Obama needs to take a page from his predecessor. When President Bush found out that Members were circumventing the ban through federal agency intimidation he had his OMB Director Rob Portman issue a memorandum to heads of departments and agencies directing them not to honor such informal requests.
    • They Should Be Joined by the Senate. A one-sided earmark moratorium will not achieve the goals of reducing any earmarks as House Members would just submit their requests to the Senators giving them more earmark credit to take. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina has already called for the Senate to also take up the moratorium which would give a lot more credibility and effectiveness to this effort.

    Earmark reform efforts have always been a tough sell in Congress. Members from both sides of the aisle like to be able to bring home dollars for the State or District. But the fundamental unfairness of earmarks has long stuck in the craw of the American people. Media reports indicate that Speaker Pelosi is considering a one year moratorium on earmarking. This would be a great first step and may be the beginning of bipartisan agreement on an issue that may restrain federal spending.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    12 Responses to Will 2010 Be an Earmark Free Zone?

    1. Mark says:

      Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats would go back on their own words within a week, such as they did with PAYGO.

      PAYGO was a nice, dishonest effort, to sound responsible, and the Democrats have not used that legislation once, since signing it into law, nor will they.

      There will be no real stopping of earmarks, maybe only an effort to try and sound like they should do it.

    2. TX says:

      Speaker Pelosi better be careful. Perhaps “earmark” restrictions would further allow Republicans to reinvent themselves by actually representing their constituents thru conservative values by putting USA and US citizen first. The greater the number of viable Republican candidates found that support the people they represent; the lesser the likelihood of any global/domestic attempt of socialism by the Obama administration and his cronies in Congress.

      “Earmark” limitations might domestically result in a USA that is far more fair & equitable; puts US citizens first as a group; protects our borders; keeps taxes low on small businesses; provides tax & other incentives to large corporations to keep American jobs stateside; ends unfair entitlement by lobbyist group or labor union and halts the current trend toward socialism.

      “Earmark” margins might internationally result in a USA that is more US centric abroad; places country and US citizen first; becomes more energy independent; continues to lead/influence other countries for beneficial trade & prevents/concludes war without political correctness via the current secular crusade by the Obama administration. It is a start.

    3. stirling, Pennsylvan says:

      The whole "earmark" process wreaks of corruption in my book, the current administration has just taken it to a new level of spending on projects that have no real value (other then kickbacks for votes). I will never belive annother politican that says they are a good idea ever. The more government spends the more I belive they don't deserve the taxpayers money. Abolish every earmark and let the people put their money where they see fit letting the free market system naturally choose who succeeds and who fails.

    4. Rick74 says:

      I agree that definition is 9/10 of the law (a crude metaphor).

      Why not be a heretic?

      Each bill should have a focus that requires a cogent, compact Executive Summary of less than two typewritten pages (12 point, Arial, 1 inch margins on all sides, 8 X11" paper). – Note: Font and page size requirements are absolutely necessary.

      Each distinct section of the bill must have a bullet point in the Executive Summary linked to its discussion within the bill. Each bullet point must also include a one-sentence description of and the estimated cost to implement its corresponding section.

      Unrelated but attached legislation (unrelated to the Title of the Bill and to its other component sections) would be discouraged, but not prohibited. That said, all sections – original and appended or attached – MUST be accounted for within the Executive Summary.

      Once the Executive Summary grows to its two-page limit, no further expansion of that bill is allowed. Additions must therefore be moved to a new bill to be separately and subsequently considered.

      Up until a specified time – of at least two days in length – before a final vote is called for in the chamber (Senate or House), adjustments can be made to sections within the bill, with corresponding adjustments within the Executive Summary. At that time, the full bill is published in the congressional record for consideration and, if security implications permit, the bill is also posted on line.

      This way forward might mitigate 2700 page fiascos and $862 billion Christmas trees. It might reduce ploys to gain favor (you wash my back and I'll …) and round up votes.

      It might also help make our government work.

    5. Richard Allen, Los A says:

      Earmarks and riders are killing the U.S. Lets permanently stop all of these. I know it sounds like it could stop the legislative body, from "getting things done," but throw in a few laws prohibiting PAC payments/kickbacks, etc., to our well fed legislative branch and we might have a little more honesty.

      The greed that exists in our legislature is nausiating. Maybe we should waterboard a few of these folks to get some sanity on the books.

    6. Drew Page, IL says:

      Of course there will be no 'earmarks' in any 2010 legislation; we have Nancy Pelosi's word on that. Just like there was going to be no legislation put into law without finding money to pay for it within the budget. The extension of unemployment compensation proved that, didn't it?

    7. Normca says:

      democrats rely on the American people not paying attention. At least their hard core constituents who rely on government cheese. Their intentions are all that matters. I am glad to finally see something in print that says GW Bush withheld funds somewhere. The bash on Bush is that he spent too much and no one anywhere had outlined what Bush spent on his own. Not Fox Business and not even Heritage. Unfortunately Mr. Bush was stuck on his oath of office to Defend and Protect and that meant Iraq and Afghanistan. The democrat controlled congress tied their spending to war funding as they knew he would not veto it. Heritage; I'd like to see you outline, beyond the prescription drug program just what GW Bus spent on his own, please.

    8. Lloyd Scallan - New says:

      Is Dani Doane that naive to assume any word that comes from the mouth of

      Pelosi is true? Why did she make this hollow proposal at this particular time, with the issue of Obamacare raging? It's more diversions. Smoke and mirrors. Slight of hand. Simply another LIE. Another attempt to fool the people. When are we going to realize Obama, and those that surround him, are LIARS. They have a

      socialist agenda and will do anything and everything they can, legal and illegal, to reach their goal of a total socialist society.

    9. Tim Az says:

      Sure and enough money will fly out of Pelosi's butt to repay our national debt.

    10. Concerned, - NC says:

      This would be great! I'm pretty jaded – but I do hope this will become a reality. The bullet points mentioned in the article sound promising. I am wondering why the president wants to cap it at 'no greater than 7.8B.' In this troubling global economic cooling, the cap should be lower -say '5B.'

    11. DAN MOFFATT says:

      I BELIEVE THAT pelosi-reid-obama-ARE SOCIALISTS.THEIR TIME IS NOW.I DO NOT BELIEVE FOR A MINUTE THAT EARMARKS,WILL NOT BE A PART OF THIS DIRTY POLITICAL AGENDA FOR 2010,AND THEREAFTER.I YEARN TO BREATHE THE FREE AIR IN NOVEMBER.OUR WHITEHOUSE USURPER SHOULD BE RENDERED NEUTRAL IN NOVEMBER.

      THIS SOCIALIST ATTEMPT TO TAKEOVER MY COUNTRY WILL BE MET WITH THE SAME ARROGANCE HE (obama)DISHES OUT TO OTHERS.WE WILL FIGHT YOU ON THE BORDERS,WE'LL FIGHT YOU ON THE WATER,WE'LL FIGHT YOU IN THE MANY TOWN HALLS,WE'LL FIGHT YOU IN CONGRESS,AND IN EVERY SMALL AND BIG TOWN IN AMERICA.

      YOU HAVE LIED TO AMERICA TOO MANY TIMES TO TRUST YOU NOW.YOUR DEFEAT WILL HAVE LOUD REPERCUSSIONS,THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.YOUR VISION FOR AMERICA IS NOT OURS.YOUR ARROGANCE KNOWS NO BOUNDS.HOW DARE YOU EVEN CALL YOURSELF AN AMERICAN

    12. Dick Doyle, Monterey says:

      I question your attribution of the 2007 earmark moratorium to the "Republican majority." The GOP lost control of the House and Senate in the November 2006 elections. They had not completed the appropriations process for FY 2007 when that election took place, hence a Continuing Resolution was in effect. When the incoming chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Democrats Obey and Byrd, respectively, began planning to complete these bills, they decided to drop earmarks. That was the first and only earmark moratorium, and it made a huge difference. Many Republicans had called for earmark moratoria in 2006 and 2007, but they were unable to convince the leadership of the party to make it happen.

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