Monday, August 27, 2007

Boehner on Earmarks

The other day I commented on a column by Congressman Rahm Emanuel in defense of the 'reforms' Democrats had passed for earmarking. Now Republican Leader John Boehner takes up his pen:

The rules pushed through the House by the majority leadership in January on the opening day of the current Congress do include some commendable provisions that were not part of last year’s Republican reforms, and I commended the Democratic leadership for including these provisions when they were passed. Unfortunately, since that time, the leadership has constructed a system that conveniently ensures earmarks in such bills cannot be debated or stripped out on the House floor. This is a giant step back from the reforms Republicans implemented last year on behalf of taxpayers — and until it is fixed, this loophole will continue to undermine public trust and confidence in our institution.

Rep. Emanuel is wrong to suggest the current system in Congress is as open and transparent as it needs to be or could be. Republicans should have acted far sooner to reform the earmark process when we had the majority, and our failure to do so contributed to the loss last November. But while Republicans have gotten the message the hard way, the Democratic majority now appears resigned to repeating our mistakes. Americans are rightly outraged that Congress has passed an “ethics reform” bill that fails to ensure all earmarks are subject to appropriate debate and scrutiny. Legislative action needs to be taken in Congress as soon as possible to remedy this problem.

Earlier this summer I introduced a resolution that would require all taxpayer-funded earmarks to be publicly disclosed and subject to challenge on the House floor. I have requested that Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) schedule this resolution for a vote to give all Members, Republican and Democrat alike, the opportunity to assure the American people that appropriate scrutiny is applied to all taxpayer-funded earmarks. I regret to report that to date, my requests have been met only with silence.

This sounds good. Bob Novak recently pointed out however, that despite all the talk on both sides of the aisle about earmark reform, both Republicans and Democrats are going about the business of earmarking in much the normal manner. As long as this is the case, it will be impossible for either side to use earmarks as a political issue. If the Congressional GOP wants to take this issue to the voters in 2008, they can't just sound holier than thou; they need to be holier than thou.

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