Earmark Moratorium Backlash | Citizens Against Government Waste

Earmark Moratorium Backlash

The WasteWatcher

After years of feeding at the trough, it appears that some members of Congress are not adapting well to the newly imposed two-year earmark moratorium. Despite affirmation by congressional leaders that earmarks will not exist in the 112th Congress, the pork addicts are chafing under the new strictures.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) became one of the first to voice her support of earmarks when she claimed transportation projects shouldn’t count. This startling reversal of course came on November 15, 2010, less than two weeks after the November 3 election that gave House Republicans a majority. Rep. Bachmann then introduced legislation on March 1, 2011 that championed a local bridge project.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) also chimed in. Although he has long championed the process – claiming “earmarks are good for us” in March 2010 – he has led the charge to re-evaluate the current moratorium. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Inhofe has a very good reason to wish for the return of earmarks. The forthcoming Water Resources Development Act, a multi-year authorization bill traditionally filled to the brim with the wasteful projects, is due to be released by the committee this year.

In a rare fit of bipartisanship, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), agrees with Inhofe. They wrote a letter to senators asking them for “specific projects and programmatic requests you would like considered for inclusion in this bill.” This language sounds suspiciously like a request for earmarks.

To justify their efforts to undermine the earmark ban, the two cite their view of the proper role of Congress in the budgetary process. “Without congressional input, the administration would be the sole voice in setting water resources priorities,” the letter reads. Inhofe has claimed in the past that, should earmarks be eliminated, “nonelected bureaucrats are the ones” who would decide where money is spent, not elected members of Congress.

Those “nonelected bureaucrats” also oversee a competitive process under which money is awarded to projects based on merit, not parochial interests. While the agency process of awarding funding is far from perfect, the solution to those problems would not be to build an equally unaccountable, wasteful parallel spending process for earmarks. Instead, Congress should refocus on its constitutional responsibility to oversee the trillions in spending that flows through the federal grant-making process, identify weaknesses, inefficiencies, or other ways that the process has broken down and become politicized, and fix those problems.

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