Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Democratic Bait and Switch on Earmarks?

Today the House will vote on legislation to fund the federal government through the rest of fiscal year 2007. HJres 20 will spend about $464 billion of taxpayer money. Porkbusters and others are watching closely to see if Democrats follow through on their promise to include no earmarks in the bill.

They have not. A few posts below I mentioned a few earmarks that are still in the bill, and linked to blog posts identifying others. Still, even if Democrats can't deliver a complete victory on ending earmarks, they may deserve significant credit for dramatically reducing them - but the jury is still out on that.

My question is regarding Chairman Obey's press release explaining how Democrats have delivered on their promise. He states:

The recent explosion in earmarks has left Congress unable to ensure the integrity of the system and public confidence is at an all time low. Obey and Byrd decided to place a moratorium on the practice until the new, reformed process is fully in place.

The joint resolution is free of earmarks. Title I, Section 112 states:

Any language specifying an earmark in a committee report or statement of managers accompanying an appropriations Act for fiscal year 2006 shall have no legal effect with respect to funds appropriated by this division.

This decision does not come without pain. Many worthwhile earmarks were cut including the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Points of Light Foundation, and America’s Promise. Hopefully, whatever short term pain this causes will be more than made up for in the long run.

That's welcome, but it addresses last year's bills. This bill is for fiscal year 2007. Fiscal year 2006 ended months ago. Surely, the 2006 earmarks (which were enacted in 2005) have already been funded?

Further, as others have pointed out, report language never had the force of law. So at best, this is symbolic. As far as I can see, it tells the White House 'you know all those projects we told you to fund 18 months ago, you didn't have to.'

But it does nothing about earmarks this year or going forward.

Or can someone explain to me what I'm missing?

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