Go For It, President Bush By Betsy Newmark

It sounds like Bush is going to announce that he will issue an executive order instructing government departments and agencies to ignore all earmarks in the Appropriations omnibus bill that were not specifically entered into the bill signed into law. Typically, lawmakers put most of their earmarks into committee reports that are not officially part of the law.

Bush signed the fiscal 2008 spending legislation into law shortly after Christmas Day, but has indicated he might direct officials at federal agencies to ignore the nearly 9,000 member projects written in the bill’s report language.

The executive order would generate enormous support from fiscal hawks, but would roil already poor relations between the White House and the Democratic Congress — not to mention infuriate many Republicans touting the projects to their constituents.

The members are Congress are furious because they’re used to getting the benefit of all these earmarks when they campaign back home. But if they’re as convinced of the value of their projects why not put them into the bill itself, let them be debated their publicly and available for anyone studying the language of the bill instead of doing it all in this “oh, by the way” fashion? If Bush issued such an order, he’d be infuriating both Democrats and Republicans on the Hill. Fine. They obviously can’t discipline themselves. The numbers of earmarks are down from when the Republicans controlled Congress, but they’re still way up.

In the 2008 bills, for the first time, the names of members of Congress were provided with the earmarks, which counts as progress in the battle to cut back and eventually eliminate pork-barrel spending. The number of earmarks was increased by 1,080, or 11 percent from 2006, and the cost was reduced by $14.9 billion, or 51 percent.

“There is good news and bad news for taxpayers in the appropriations bills this year,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “While the number of projects has increased, the cost of projects has been reduced. Pork is still the most egregious form of wasteful spending in Washington. The earmarks alone are reason enough to reject the Omnibus. Adding the $11 billion in ‘emergency’ spending in the Omnibus bill to the $6.4 billion in such spending in the defense appropriations bill belies Congress’s claim that they met the President’s $933 billion request for domestic spending.”

Members of Congress took full advantage of the conference meetings to add their own pork. There were more than 300 projects added in conference; 114 of those were added in the Homeland Security Appropriations Act section of the bill where CAGW found 132 projects worth $171,216,000. The 114 “airdropped” projects worth $113,140,914 constitute 86 percent of the total number, and 66 percent of the total dollars. Even worse, 95 of those projects, worth $50,313,021, were added by members of the House Appropriations Committee for a competitive Predisaster Mitigation grant program within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Many members of Congress have criticized FEMA for its mismanagement of numerous programs over the past several years,” said Schatz. “Once again, they are making an agency’s job harder by forcing staff to administer projects that may not meet the competitive program’s criteria and usurping the agency’s authority. This is just one of many reasons why Congress should end earmarks altogether, and why the welcome reduction in the cost of earmarks is not good enough for taxpayers.”

This content was used with the permission of Betsy’s Page.

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