Friday, August 24, 2007

Emanuel: Reform Earmarks (And Forget What I Proposed Last Year)

Rahm Emanuel wants everyone to understand: Democrats never intended to end earmarks.

DEMOCRATS made earmark reform a campaign issue in 2006 — and a reality in 2007 — because earmarks were at the heart of corruption scandals in Washington. Democrats never promised to eliminate earmarks. We promised to reform them.
But of course, Democrats haven't reformed earmarks -- they gutted earmark reform. It's the primary reason they still cannot send the ethics bill they passed to the President. They gutted earmark reform so badly they fear a veto.

Emanuel also points out that some earmarks are GOOD earmarks:
In my own district, I obtained an earmark to rebuild a bridge that not only was rated as deficient but also was identified by the Department of Homeland Security as a major evacuation route in case of a terrorist attack on Chicago. Does that make me an “earmark thug” or a congressman who took care of a critical need in his district?
If it required this action by a Congressman to prevent a bridge collapse, it shows the criminal negligence of the city or state with authority for the bridge. I hope that Congressman Emanuel also called for the firing, recall, impeachment or jailing of the official responsible -- but I can't find any record of that happening. In fact, I looked pretty closely at the Congressman's website and can't find any mention of this bridge. I'm sure it's there somewhere -- but I would have thought that so serious a problem merited A LOT of attention.

I also find it interesting that Emanuel seems so proud of an earmark reform package that falls so far short of the one he introduced last year. This is what the House has adopted:
  • Committees are required to list earmarks in a bill, and identify the requesting Member. But regardless of whether the list is complete or deficient, it's deemed complete if the Chairman asserts that it is. And if the Chair asserts that he (or she) inserted the earmark, no additional disclosure is required;
  • Earmarks may not be traded for votes; and,
  • A requested earmark may not benefit either the Member or spouse.

This is what Representative Emanuel called for last year:
  • Neither a Member, the Member’s spouse, or any immediate family member may personally benefit from an earmark;
  • Members may not request earmarks that will benefit a registered lobbyist or former registered lobbyist who serves as chairman of the leadership political action committee of the Member requesting the earmark;
  • Earmarks may not be requested for any entity that employs the Member's spouse or any immediate family member, employs or is represented by a former employee of the earmark’s sponsor, or is represented by a lobbying firm that employs any spouse or close relative of the earmark’s sponsor;
  • No tax measure may contain any provision amending Title VI of the U.S. Code to benefit one individual, corporation or entity; and,
  • No earmark may be included in a conference report without the language having first been in either the House or Senate legislation’s original language.
Mr. Emanuel was awfully ambitious last year, when he was in the Minority. Now that he actually wields real power, he's settling for some awfully insignificant 'reforms.'

Read also porkbusters and Phil Kerpen, for more on the earmark sham.

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