Monday, April 02, 2007

Committed to Reforming Earmarks?

So who's more committed to earmark reform - Congressional Republicans or Congressional Democrats? The impression I get from this Roll Call piece ($) is that the correct answer is neither:

Republican Senators are about to get a gift — $140 million worth of district projects — courtesy of Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus.

The projects will be added to the Water Resources Development Act reauthorization bill in coming weeks, in order to offset a $140 million water project in Montana that Baucus — chairman of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee on transportation and infrastructure, which has jurisdiction over WRDA — had demanded.

EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), at a markup March 29, said the only way to guarantee the WRDA bill moves speedily to the floor is to “oppose all amendments” and keep the bill “at the same level of funding as last year.” The Senate passed a $13 billion WRDA bill last year but was unable to reach agreement with the House on a final bill.

But keeping the bottom line the same has not meant that last year’s legislation is inviolable. Boxer’s markup vehicle had a new, $140 million project inserted at Baucus’ request to repair an 85-year-old system that delivers water to towns along Montana’s northern border.

Republicans objected, but Boxer explained that she had made an agreement with Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the ranking members of the committee and subcommittee respectively, to allow Baucus’ measure and provide a way for Republican project to be “treated equally.”

According to Isakson, the deal essentially means that Republicans on the committee now have $140 million to divide among the projects of their choosing.

It's nice that while Republicans and Democrats disagree on a lot, they seem to get along just fine when it comes to earmarking taxpayer dollars.

To give outsiders a sense of what the Water Resources Development Act looked like last year, here's a small excerpt. The legislation contains dozens and dozens of projects. Apparently this year's version will as well.

If either Congressional Republicans or Congressional Democrats intend to portray themselves as 'reformers,' they will need to oppose earmarks in authorization legislation as well as appropriations measures. They can't hope that voters will focus on what the right hand is up to and fail to notice the left.

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