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Tilting at Windmills

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March 11, 2010

THE GOP DISCOVERS ITS DISTASTE FOR EARMARKS.... Am I the only one who finds this odd?

House Democratic leaders on Wednesday banned budget earmarks to private industry, ending a practice that has steered billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to companies and set off corruption scandals.

The ban is the most forceful step yet in a three-year effort in Congress to curb abuses in the use of earmarks, which allow individual lawmakers to award financing for pet projects to groups and businesses, many of them campaign donors.

But House Republicans, in a quick round of political one-upmanship, tried to outmaneuver Democrats by calling for a ban on earmarks across the board, not just to for-profit companies. Republicans, who expect an intra-party vote on the issue Thursday, called earmarks "a symbol of a broken Washington."

Both parties are seeking to claim the ethical high ground on the issue by racing to rein in a budgeting practice that has become rife with political influence peddling.

As a rule, I think the anti-earmark crusade can get a little excessive. The earmarking process is sometimes abused, and sometimes legitimate. Banning the practice altogether is probably unnecessary.

That said, congressional Republicans want to position themselves as the party that hates earmarks more? What a strange claim. It was, after all, a GOP House majority that nearly quadrupled the number of earmarks during their rule, from 4,000 earmarks in 1994 to 15,000 in 2005. If Republicans hated earmarks so much, why didn't they do something about them when they were in the majority, instead of making the "problem" worse.

Indeed, 10 GOP leaders issued a statement yesterday, declaring earmarks a "symbol of a broken Washington," and calling for their elimination. These same 10 Republicans requested over $240 million in earmarks since 2008.

Oops.

Chances are, this anti-earmark push isn't going to get too far -- the Senate isn't fond of the idea. But in either case, it's striking to see the earmark-loving Republican Party pretending to turn over a new leaf. I suppose the only folks who can take the GOP's grandstanding seriously are those a) with very short memories; or b) with no access to Google.

Steve Benen 11:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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The anti-earmark push will fail because democrats won't want to punish their friends in Acorn and other leftist lobby groups.

Posted by: Al on March 11, 2010 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

c) The Villagers

Posted by: Greg Worley on March 11, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Grand Old Pseudo-event

Nothing to stop the GOP from seizing this high ground anon.
They could do it in a DC second by unilaterally dropping all earmarks...
(And then Limbaugh-taunting the other side to follow along.)


Posted by: koreyel on March 11, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

The problem's not so much earmarks as anonymous earmarks, hidden earmarks, earmarks buried in unrelated legislation, etc.
What should be done is to require anybody who wants an earmark to say so publicly and very loudly. And to make public any connection they may have to whoever will benefit from the earmark.
And while we're at it, no more anonymous "holds" over in the Senate, either. You want to stop a nomination, you gotta say so, real loud.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on March 11, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK
I suppose the only folks who can take the GOP's grandstanding seriously are those a) with very short memories; or b) with no access to Google.

Or, as they are more commonly known: The American Media.

Just another example of "If a Democrat tried pulling this shit, they'd be crucified"-ism that's so prevalent any more.

::sigh::

Posted by: Mark D on March 11, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK
Indeed, 10 GOP leaders issued a statement yesterday, declaring earmarks a "symbol of a broken Washington," and calling for their elimination. These same 10 Republicans requested over $240 million in earmarks since 2008.

That group apparently doesn't include my Congressman, Dr. Ron Paul, who requested almost $400M in earmarks last year alone. (He then voted against the legislation, of course, because he's a man of principle.)

Posted by: Snarky Bastard on March 11, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight--both the Dems and the GOP in the House are willing to ban all earmarks to for profit groups? I could care less if the GOP rakes in some political hay--lets get it done in the House and put pressure on the Senate. If the playing field gets leveled, maybe a few of the Congresscritters would actually start representing the Country's interests.

Posted by: terry on March 11, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

I suppose the only folks who can take the GOP's grandstanding seriously are those a) with very short memories; or b) with no access to Google.

No, just the really stupid people. Yesterday, I had one of these morons tell me how he wasn't going to continue contributing to an environmental organization because he had read on the internet how that organization was allied with "those Obamas" to ban sport fishing in America. No amount of talk pointing out that if he went to the organization's website he could read a statement that this isn't true could change his mind. "Them Obamas want to stop fishing. I read it on the internet."

For those who don't know about this latest wingnut "outrage, some halfwit "sports writer" at ESPN.com wrote on Sunday - without any attribution - that the EPA was joining with another report in the Interior Department to ban fishing. In the past few days, it's been all over the wingnut blogosphere.

Oh, did I mention this guy was white and lived in Alabama? Say no more.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 11, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

No access to Google?

"The Internets is a series of tubes". Former Sen Stevens.Alaska

Posted by: stevio on March 11, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Don't worry. When GOP gets back control of Congress, earmarks will flow like the Mississippi.

Posted by: Bat of Moon on March 11, 2010 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

TC has it right, the stupid are the problem. No matter what the facts, if that socialist Obama gets attached to it, they are against it.

Posted by: Erig on March 11, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Why not just allocate, say, $15 million per senator per year for earmarks and $5 million per house member per year and let them spend on any non-private interest they wish? Make the earmarks public knowledge.

Earmarks do some good so standardize the process and open the windows

Posted by: jb on March 11, 2010 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Man, THAT is totally optimistic. People have no short-term memories, OR long-term memories. Most people don't even know we nearly re-lived the Great Depression not 18 months ago. How can we expect them to remember that Republicans were the worst abusers ever of earmarks?

Posted by: Kenneth G. Cavness on March 11, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that earmarks per se are not a huge deal -- in terms of the overall budget, they don't even amount to a drop in the bucket and it's not necessarily good governance to always subject every cent of government spending to the full budgeting/contracting process. But the earmarking process whereby congresspeople can slip in spending items with no oversight, publicity or transparency is definitely a problem. Without support from the Senate, the House Dem move yesterday appeared to be little more than just posturing, especially since they specifically exempted non-profits. Anyone could see the right-wing noise machine (followed 24 hours later by the knuckleheads in the MSM after they catch the Drudge headline) was just going to have a field day with that one. Nicely played (not).

Posted by: jonas on March 11, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

The House Republican'ts will condem all earmarks, and then insist that as long as the Democrats get to earmark for non-profit and government project so do they.

My boy Frank Wolf, he is a big earmarker. Just rolls the pork into town.

Posted by: Lance on March 11, 2010 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Why not just give each member of congress $1 million dollars in each annual budget to earmark in their districts/states, subject to full disclosure, and leave it at that?

Posted by: jonas on March 11, 2010 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

This reform will never take place because both the GOP and the Dems benefit from earmarks. It's little more than rhetoric meant to gain voters to support their party.

It's like illegal immigration. The GOP wants the cheap labor so that their corporate lobbyists and rich business owners who contribute to their campaigns can turn a huge profit with their companies. The far-right talks about cracking down on illegals, but the government does not punish the business for hiring them. They just bus in another group of illegals for sub-standard wages if they get deported.


The Dems want illegals here because it's a good way to ensure future democratic votes. Plus, there are people who work for a living that can help finance social services for the illegals. It's no big deal to raise taxes or borrow $1 Trillion from China again...

Posted by: Jason on August 25, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK
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