House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey says that although Members of Congress will have little opportunity to review earmarks, and no opportunity to fight them, they ought not 'demagogue' the issue. And if they do? Well, he might just decide that no one gets any candy:
House Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey, D-Wis., today outlined how earmarks will be disclosed before conference, and warned that if Republicans “demagogue” the issue there might be no earmarks in the fiscal 2008 bills.
And why are Democrats unable to carry through on their promise to open up the process? They've been too busy 'trying to end' the Iraq war:
“There have been 30,000 requests for projects,” a spokeswoman for Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said, adding that with the debate over the Iraq war and new ethics requirements, staff simply has been backed up.
In the first 6 months of this year, Congressional Democrats engaged in an extended effort to browbeat the President into withdrawing from Iraq; they claimed it was an effort to end the war. Never mind that an actual effort to end the war would have involved de-funding it; the Democrats were unwilling to take the political risk of doing that. No, they engaged in a seemingly endless amount of political theater, which apparently consumed a tremendous amount of staff time and resources, all of which ended with Democrats giving the President the clean bill he asked for -- after more than three months of demagoguery.
Republican critics of this retreat from campaign promises note (implicitly) that under their watch, these bills were porked up from the start of the process. Since the Democrats are waiting until the last minute to add thousands of pork-barrel projects, these bills now contain 'slush funds,' whose content will be spelled out later:
Republicans have accused Democrats of making the earmark process secret, calling the money reserved for earmarks in appropriations bills a “slush fund” and plan to use aggressive floor tactics this week to highlight what they perceive as a fundamental rule change...
“This bill provides $4.3 billion for unspecified projects,” Lewis said. “What that really means is that the bill before us recommends a $4.3 billion pot of money with zero direction from Congress on how the Corps [of Engineers] should allocate this money.”
If the GOP had been this vigilant about earmarks last year, they might not be on the outside looking in. It's nice at least, to see them starting to demonstrate the zeal of the convert.