Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 25, 2009

GOP EARMARKS.... Last night, appearing once again on CBS News, John McCain complained about something he heard in President Obama's address to Congress.

"[W]hen he says that there's no earmarks, I just picked up a bill that we're going to take up tomorrow, that has 9,247 earmarks in it, in the omnibus appropriations bill. So, what am I supposed to believe here?"

McCain is confused. When the president talked about the lack of earmarks, he was talking about the economic stimulus bill. In fact, Obama wasn't vague: "I'm proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks." The omnibus appropriations bill is a different piece of legislation -- a detail McCain is probably aware of -- and Obama didn't (and couldn't) promise that every spending bill would be earmark-free forevermore. "What am I supposed to believe here?" Reality would be a good place to start.

That said, McCain's observation is at least partially right -- there are earmarks in the appropriations bill. And why is that? Because many of McCain's Republican colleagues put them there.

Republicans are expected to deliver a daylong rant Wednesday against Democratic spending legislation, yet the bill is loaded with thousands of pet projects that Republican lawmakers inserted.

Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, included $142,500 for emergency repairs to the Sam Rayburn Library and Museum in Austin Bonham, Texas. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., joined state colleagues to include $1.425 million for Nevada "statewide bus facilities." The top two Republicans on Congress' money committees also inserted local projects.

In all, an estimated $3.8 billion worth of specific projects, called "earmarks," are in the $410 billion spending bill that the House of Representatives is to vote on Wednesday.

According to two separate estimates, earmarks inserted by GOP lawmakers amount for 40% of the total.

Texas' Hall, in particular, is an interesting case. While writing up earmarks, he also boasts on his official website, "I support efforts to eliminate wasteful spending and slow the rate of growth in government."

To borrow a phrase, what am I supposed to believe here?

Steve Benen 3:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

"what am I supposed to believe here?"

You should never, ever believe your lying eyes & ears!

Posted by: SadOldVet on February 25, 2009 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

There was a dull roar from the right side of Congress when Obama said that. The Corner flagged it too, pointing to spending in the stimulus on a power plant called FutureGen. So, one earmark? How is that project different from other projects targeted by the bill? How are they even defining "earmark"? It's a confusing debate to the layperson.

Posted by: Trevor J on February 25, 2009 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP will remain irrelevant for as long as it continues to spin, lie and twist the truth. People have seen through it, but the GOP spinmeisters haven't. Until they clue in to this, they'll make lots of noise, but people will have stopped listening.

McCain knew perfectly well that he was mixing bills, and tried to score a cheap point - it will work against him, because the press has actually begun reporting on the lies.

All those TV-anchors and op-ed writers had investment portfolios, and it's all gone. Even David Brooks sees the writing on the wall, and that writing is clear: the GOP has to stop lying, if not, it will become increasingly irrelevant.

Can the GOP stop lying? Of course not, which means that the GOP, as we know it, is in a death spiral.
If insincerity was a source of energy, the US could draw its entire requirement from people like Jindal, Palin, Cantor, Steele, McCain, Lieberman and others. Yes, I'm throwing Lieberman into the mix, insincerity is his specialty.

People won't accept it any longer - they've seen behind the drapes, and they didn't like what they saw. George W Bush and Cheney effectively destroyed the GOP, and they took the nation with them into the hole it's in.

When responsible conservatives take the floor, accept responsibility for their decisions, and propose realistic plans (not wild delusions), then the GOP may be reconsolidated and become a force again. (Litmus test for that? When conservative candidates for office stop pretending they are democrats on their websites.)

Posted by: SteinL on February 25, 2009 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Everybody's against earmarks -- until and unless they support something in one's own district, or they're for a project one has a particular interest in, in which case they're the awesome-est thing evah.

This is really reminiscent of Churchill's instruction during World War II that all German undersea craft were invariably to be referred to as "u-boats," which were cowardly and skulking abhorrent to civilized people everywhere, while British craft were "submarines," marvels of modern technology and British courage.

Posted by: Andy on February 25, 2009 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

I still don't understand why 'earmarks' are bad. That's why I send representatives to Washington.

Posted by: doubtful on February 25, 2009 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

I do wish Obama would tell Congress to leave out the earmarks. Send the specifics of the projects you want directly to the agency involved, but don't hamstring them by including them in the bill.

However, what would happen is easy to predict, because we've already seen it. Republicans will call the new procedure phone-marking. And they will claim that the agencies are doling out the money in a partisan faction. The Senate in particular will also be less able to get even the two or three Republicans needed to pass the cloture/budgetary 60 vote threshhold. Earmarks, after all, are the time honored way to get congressmen to compromise.

Posted by: Danp on February 25, 2009 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

I'm OK with the earmarks

I just hope Nancy Pelosi got something for us in San Francisco

She got blamed for inserting a 'mouse house' in the stimulus package

Nancy, GET US our Chinatown subway
Get us a BART extension to San Jose
Get us a Geary Blvd subway !!

THAT'S The TICKET !!!

Posted by: MSierra, SF on February 25, 2009 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry for the bad link (3:15)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/23/AR2007052301782.html

By the way, Congressman Flake (R-AZ) is already complaining about any projects that help single districts that don't go through an earmark process, because they don't give him someone to blame.

Posted by: Danp on February 25, 2009 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

"...an estimated $3.8 billion worth of specific projects, called "earmarks," are in the $410 billion spending bill...

By my calculation, these earmarks consist of less than one percent of the total.

So, yet again, Republicans, who more than quadrupled earmarks when they were running Congress, are engaging in a game of misdirection by working with a complicit media (I'm talking to you Katie Couric) to draw attention to a tiny fraction of the budget so that Americans remain uninformed about the big picture.

Frustrating.

Posted by: CJ on February 25, 2009 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP contains more hypocrites per capita than any other party on earth.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on February 25, 2009 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

According to two separate estimates, earmarks inserted by GOP lawmakers amount for 40% of the total.


Are they liberal or conservative estimates?

Posted by: hyGOPrisy watch on February 25, 2009 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a way of dealing with earmarks.

1. Make a list.
2. Circulate the list and ask House members to put their names next to the earmarks as sponsors.
3. Have an amendment to remove all the earmarks without sponsors.

I don't see why the leadership should allow the minority to get their money and rail against earmarks too.

Either you take the money and take responsibility or you get to rail against earmarks and decline the money.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on February 25, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

From an earlier post: Marveling at the very idea of high-speed rail, as if it were some kind of fanciful magic, does not reflect well on the governor's appreciation of infrastructure innovation.

This is exactly why America is in long-term decline. In the U.S., maglev trains are fanciful magic, because we can't get our f'ing act together.

The next person to walk on the Moon will be from India or China, but certainly won't be from this country.

And to see Republicans complain ON THE INTERNET about government research projects is mind boggling.

Posted by: Mike on February 25, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Granted that the earmarks are for local (or state) projects. But will they mean jobs and infrastructure? If so, they may be good earmarks.

Posted by: msmolly on February 25, 2009 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

"While writing up earmarks, he also boasts on his official website, "I support efforts to eliminate wasteful spending[...]""

Those statements do not contradict.

I'm quite willing to believe the guy is a hypocrite, but the word "earmark" is not a synonym for "wasteful spending".

Posted by: JeffF on February 25, 2009 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't John McCain have some beer to veto?

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on February 25, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

The irony of this example is that the project should have been funded in the stimulus. But if I'm not mistaken, Sen. Coburn succeeded in passing an amendment that specifically excluded funding for projects on public building such as libraries and museums.

Include me as someone who sees "earmarks" in largely a positive light. But like most things, abuse of the system can occur. There will always be political opportunists who will find fault with any expenditure, or abuse the system by acquiring a disproportionate share.

Posted by: Rob on February 25, 2009 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is confused. -- Steve Benen

McCain may or may not be confused but he sure hopes *we* will be

[...] the word "earmark" is not a synonym for "wasteful spending". -- JeffF, @15:45

Quite true. OTOH... "Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, included $142,500 for emergency repairs to the Sam Rayburn Library and Museum in Austin, Texas." as reported by McClatchy. I don't see that it's any less wasteful than money for "grass on the Mall", to which the Repub Rep had objected.

It's like Andy (@15:07) said; your earmark is a huge hunk of greasy pork, mine is a tiny dollop of bare essentials.

Posted by: exlibra on February 25, 2009 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

The Sam Rayburn Library AIN'T in Austin. It's in Bonham, Texas, in Fannin County, where Rayburn lived his entire life.

That said, if you read the Constitution, you know Rayburn correctly said he served WITH and not UNDER many presidents, as Speaker, and a library and museum to the longest-serving Speaker isn't such pork, either.

In the encroaching world of Presidentialism, honoring the longest-serving Speaker might be worth a bit of Constitutional value, too.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 25, 2009 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK
Republicans are expected to deliver a daylong rant Wednesday against Democratic spending legislation, yet the bill is loaded with thousands of pet projects that Republican lawmakers inserted.
No surprise--earmarks are actually the only kind of spending most Republicans support. They have rejected any conception of the common good, and thus see the legitimate role of government as helping themselves and their contributors. Earmarks--spending in their own districts--helps them get re-elected, therefore earmarks are good. (Other representatives' earmarks, of course, are just the price of getting their own.)

The explosion of earmarks under Republican rule was not an historical accident. Earmarks are the soul of Republican government.

Posted by: Tom Hilton on February 25, 2009 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Earmarks. What a red herring issue if I've ever seen one. They are such a minute percentage of the overall budget. I think the Dems SHOULD get rid of earmarks, just to take away the Republicans' talking point, lol.

Having said that, I too wonder what is an 'earmark.' Are funds to JPL in Pasedena CA, to Johnson Space Center in Huston, and to Cape Canaveral in Florida earmarks, or funding for NASA?

I wish some MSM would challenge Republicans on the insignificance of Earmarks.

Posted by: JWK on February 25, 2009 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

According to two separate estimates, earmarks inserted by GOP lawmakers amount for 40% of the total.

Did I miss something or aren't Republicans pretty close to 40% of the Senate? If the point is one of hypocrisy, it would be more useful to know how many earmarks McCain has.

Posted by: TW Andrews on February 25, 2009 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'm reminded of the scene in the TV series Mad Men where the early 1960s ad agency guy is meeting with cigarette company executives, trying to come up with a new ad campaign after a government report has just linked tobacco to cancer.

He asks the tobacco company executive to describe how tobacco is harvested and processed. The tobacco company executive mentions that the harvested tobacco leaves are "toasted" as part of their processing into cigarettes.

The ad agency guy smiles and underlines "toasted" on his white board. There you have it, he says: the word "toasted" gives everybody a mellow, warm-and-fuzzy feeling. We're going to build our ad campaign around that.

The tobacco executive is skeptical. But all tobacco is toasted after harvesting, he says. So what? Our competitors' tobacco is toasted too.

No, says the ad agency guy. YOUR tobacco is "toasted". THEIR tobacco is "poison".


Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 25, 2009 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

TW, I noticed the same percentages.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 25, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

McCain probably doesn't like earmarks because they state where the money is to be spent. Much easier to pay off your buddies without having to worry about a paper trail...

Posted by: Jim on February 25, 2009 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

So The Stimulus Bill has NO earmarks but the Omnibus Bill has a lot of earmarks?
From what I can gather The Stimulus bill is $787 billion while the Omnibus Bill is an extra $410 billion.
Is this correct?

Can someone provide a link that explains the difference between the two bills?

Posted by: ModDem on February 25, 2009 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

"So The Stimulus Bill has NO earmarks but the Omnibus Bill has a lot of earmarks? From what I can gather The Stimulus bill is $787 billion while the Omnibus Bill is an extra $410 billion. Is this correct? Can someone provide a link that explains the difference between the two bills?"

http://www.google.com/

Posted by: CJ on February 25, 2009 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

CJ
Cute that.
I have been searching for half an hour but no link I can find actually explains the difference between the two bills. Or, more specifically, says one has earmarks but the other does not. I'm simply wondering if someone has written a good post or column somewhere that explains the difference. As it is now I'm debating some right wing crazies who insist the stimulus bill has earmarks. I want to see proof it doesn't.

Posted by: ModDem on February 25, 2009 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

And I say to the dear Senator from Arizona - the Republicans have been pissing on our backs for the past eight years and telling us not to worry because it was only raining - and so Dear John, What am I suppose to think about your confusion? You're just plain stupid? I don't believe it for a minute - you John McCain are playing politics with my livelihood and my children's futures by sniping at what could be an honest national debate on where we are going from here! Stop playing with fire! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 25, 2009 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Of course. The problem with the Republican party is that it is another big spending liberal party, which the voters rejected.

Posted by: Luther on February 25, 2009 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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