Wednesday, July 26, 2006

House Leaders 'Get It' (Sometimes)

The House Republican leadership is announcing that if a lobbying reform bill is not agreed to and enacted into law (as will probably be the case), then they will reform earmarking independently, through House rules.

This is both good and bad. On the one hand, it makes it tougher to enact meaningful reform in the Senate, and puts more pressure on Tom Coburn, John McCain, and Bill Frist (according to the article) to force action on Senate rules. On the other, it allows the House to avoid any 'least common denominator' approach that the Senate might have pushed on them.

It's likely that the approach adopted in House rules will be the same one included for the House in the ethics and lobbying reform bill. That is, forced disclosure of earmarks, with some hurdles set to the introduction of earmarks at the last minute.

Along with the enhanced rescission bill that the Senate may consider in September, Congressional leadership clearly wants to leave fiscal conservatives with a pleasant taste in their mouths before the election. And in a major victory, there is apparently agreement that any rule change will apply to the transportation committee, limiting the enormous abuse of earmarking that has become standard in transportation authorization legislation.

Don't fool yourself that this will make a big difference in overall spending levels. Any such effect will be negligible, since overall decisions on spending levels are made separate of any considerations of earmarks. Nevertheless, anything that limits the earmarking of federal dollars is probably a good thing.

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