Shocking: Democrats sidestepping their own earmark rules

Posted by: ST on June 3, 2007 at 10:52 am

Rollcall (scroll) first reported on this back on May 23, the WaPo picked it up (scroll) on May 24, and the AP has finally picked up the story:

WASHINGTON – After promising unprecedented openness regarding Congress’ pork barrel practices, House Democrats are moving in the opposite direction as they draw up spending bills for the upcoming budget year.

Democrats are sidestepping rules approved their first day in power in January to clearly identify “earmarks” — lawmakers’ requests for specific projects and contracts for their states.

Rather than including specific pet projects, grants and contracts in legislation as it is being written, Democrats are following an order by the House Appropriations Committee chairman to keep the bills free of such earmarks until it is too late for critics to effectively challenge them.

Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), says those requests for dams, community grants and research contracts for favored universities or hospitals will be added to spending measures in the fall. That is when House and Senate negotiators assemble final bills.

Such requests total billions of dollars.

As a result, most lawmakers will not get a chance to oppose specific projects as wasteful or questionable when the spending bills for various agencies get their first votes in the full House in June.

The House-Senate compromise bills due for final action in September cannot be amended and are subject to only one hour of debate, precluding challenges to individual projects.

Betsy Newmark writes:

Hmmm, have we heard this before? Yup, remember the Republicans who ran in 1994 about changing how Congress worked and cutting back on pork. Well, that didn’t happen either. And I would make another bet. Republicans will run in 2008 charging the Democrats with not being open and not obeying their own rules. And if the Republicans somehow took over Congress, they too would fall into the same disappointing pattern. Congress can’t discipline itself. They write their own rules and attach no penalty for breaking them.

If voters really cared, we’d vote against any politician who was providing pork for our districts. If getting earmarks and pork was a path to losing election, they wouldn’t do it. But voters might say they don’t like pork, but they seem to enjoy getting it for their hometowns. And so the politicians will keep breaking their own campaign pledges. And we’ll keep seeing headlines like this no matter which party is in control.

Tigerhawk makes a suggestion:

The Congressional system is busted. The “imperial presidency” is not the greatest threat to American democracy, the virtually undefeatable House of Representatives is. The only ways to reform it involve changing the rules by which we draw Congressional districts (so that 90% of the seats are no longer incontestably safe) or imposing term limits. Unfortunately, Congress is not likely to support either of those reforms, so this is what we have to live with. Government of careerists, by careerists, and for careerists, shall not perish from the earth.

What do YOU think?

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3 Responses to “Shocking: Democrats sidestepping their own earmark rules”

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  1. Severian says:

    What do I think? I think the system, particularly Congress, is so screwed up and unchangeable (when have you ever been able to get a corrupt group to become uncorrupt when they are the ones who have to make the changes?) that the only real hope is either a revolution or a Roman style temporary dictatorship to force a return to traditional Constitutional values. Not that either would work or happen though. Maybe something like the Whiskey Rebellion or something, a million man, armed march on the Capitol, something to put fear into their hearts. Not gonna happen though, so expect us to continue to be eaten alive from within as we are attacked from without.

    Gerrymandering for everyone!!!

  2. I like the redrawing of the districts myself. Let a small panel do it that is composed of both sides and make sure that you don’t have heavily dem or gop areas. That would certainly liven things up. My rep is a democrat because this area of LV is heavily democrat so I don’t see any change coming…