Friday, August 31, 2007

Earmarks: The More Things Change...

The AP reports that Congress is still spending plenty on earmarks -- for both Republicans and Democrats -- regardless of who's in charge:

The 435 members of the House together requested more than 32,000 pet projects this year — several thousand more than in 2006, when scandal-embarrassed Republican leaders limited how many each lawmaker could seek.

Only about 6,000 projects totaling $5 billion made it into the dozen spending bills passed by the House this summer, but members were promised they would get a chance to add military construction projects this fall...

The Senate has a costlier set of earmarks. There, Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., puts the total so far for senators’ earmarks also at about $5 billion — with billions more to come in a $459 billion Pentagon spending bill, always the most earmark-laden measure of all.

Byrd never bought into the Bush-House pledge, promising only to cut pet projects by an unspecified amount. As always, he hasn’t been shy about shoveling federal money into West Virginia, such as $2 million in renovations to a riverfront park in Charleston and $4 million to construct a multiple sclerosis center at West Virginia University.

Since 2008 is a presidential election year, it will be difficult for Congressional leaders to project an agenda distinguished from that of the party's nominee. This is true for both Republicans and Democrats. If Democrats field a popular presidential nominee, it will cover some of the sins of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. If the GOP is so fortunate, fewer voters will ask John Boehner and Mitch McConnell what their agenda is if they should gain power.

Nevertheless, both Republican leaders will need to find issues to move voters to elect Republicans over Democrats. Earmark reform is a good candidate. The only problem is that most Republicans like earmarks as much as Democrats. Will the GOP risk offending institutionalists to grasp an issue that might help restore them to power?

1 comment:

independentvoter said...

We need more congressman like Jeff Flake. He is really fighting against the pork. Local Republicans have to become more serious about fighting state pork projects if this is going to work on a national level.

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