And they're taking still more steps to force greater transparency in the future.
The Hill reports:
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will step up the administration’s effort to cut earmarks by posting on its website next week all earmarks identified by federal agencies in fiscal year 2005 appropriations bills.
The effort is designed to create a baseline for reducing the total number and cost of earmarks by half, a goal set out by President Bush at the beginning of the year. OMB is using fiscal year 2005 appropriations bills because it sees that year as the most representative and recent year for earmarks.
OMB also asked federal agencies to provide data by Feb. 28 on earmarks in certain authorization bills, such as the 2002 farm bill and 2007 Department of Defense Authorization Act. In a January memo, OMB Director Rob Portman set a March 7 deadline for OMB to complete a review of submissions, and a March 12 deadline for posting information on the Internet.
OMB spokeswoman Christin Baker said the work has proved to be a massive undertaking, and the posting could slip past March 12. But she said OMB’s goal is to post the earmarks next week...
This is great news. But OMB is also setting up a new policy that may ultimately force Congress to write all earmarks directly into statutory text, instead of report language. The effect of this change should not be underestimated.
Right now, the vast majority of earmarks are written into committee reports that received little attention. Indeed, they can even be hard to find. OMB is adopting a policy that report language will no longer be treated as if it were statute - the de facto policy right now:
Separately, Portman last month issued a directive calling on agencies to de-fund earmarks that are not explicitly spelled out in statutory text. This would prevent funding for thousands of earmarks included in report language or other written or oral communications from Congress, according to the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste...
Officials at two government watchdog groups said the OMB’s posting of earmarks should put more pressure on the government to reduce the number of earmarks attached by lawmakers to appropriations bills and other legislation.
“We’re happy with any step the administration of Congress can take to put light on the earmark process,” said Erich Zimmermann, a senior policy analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense, which monitors earmarks. “Anything that increases pressure on Congress to reduce the number and cost of earmarks is helpful,” agreed Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.
If this policy holds up through the Bush administration and beyond, it will be very hard for future Congresses to hide their pork-barrel spending.
Rob Portman, Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, and the other Members of the House and Senate who pushed for this policy deserve a great deal of credit.
Update: Welcome Hugh Hewitt readers and thanks, Patrick, for the traffic. While you're here check out Harry Reid's plan to hold a vote this week on pulling out of Iraq - or just look around.