Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dems on Earmarks: Less than Meets the Eye?

The Hill reports that Republicans and activists are minimizing the significance of the move by Democrats to eliminate earmarks for the remaining fiscal year 2007 bills.

I think any progress is worth noting, and the Democrats certainly could have continued to use earmarks. However, I noted a few weeks ago that the idea of using a continuing resolution to fund all remaining government programs through the end of 2007 would be very tempting for Democrats. A major motivation is that there is not enough money in the remaining bills to satisfy all spending requests; that's why the GOP did not finish them. Adopting continuing resolutions allows Democrats to save a few billion, and simultaneously denying any earmark requests - which are very rarely (perhaps never) included in continuing resolutions.

Anyway, the Hill explains why this may be less than meets the eye:

David Williams, vice president for policy at the Citizens Against Government Waste, praised the yearlong continuing resolution that was passed last week. However, he too was hesitant to lavish too much praise on the move by Democrats.

"I think this is a great move, a yearlong CR … I hope it shows people that we don’t need a Teapot Museum," he said, referring to some of the pet projects that lawmakers commonly slip into large spending bills for their districts.

He expressed concern that the yearlong CR could result in members of Congress doubling up on projects in the next fiscal year and noted that he was aware the move was not made in the interest of fiscal responsibility.

"They have an agenda that they want to get to immediately when Congress comes back into session," Williams said. "Whatever the cynical reasons … it’s a positive step as long as they don’t double up in 2008.

Steve Ellis, Taxpayers for Common Sense’s vice president for programs, was also skeptical.

"February is a long way away," he said. "We will see what happens at the end of the day."

Hopefully this is is a sign of things to come, rather than a set-up for disappointment.

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