Pork tracker stops when Dems take over
The federal agency that tracked pork-barrel spending during the 12 years of the Republican congressional majority has discontinued the practice since Democrats took power, riling lawmakers suspicious of the timing and concerned about the pace of fat being added to bills.What a strange coincidence. It makes you wonder who Mulhollan voted for in the elections since 1994. That he would do it without even being asked by the Democrats is just as suspicious. I think it also throws into doubt any claims Democrats may make in the future that they have cut pork. Pork Busters needs to pounce on this.
"To me, something doesn't smell right," said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican. "I just hope no one is pressuring" the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
While not blaming the Democratic leadership, Mr. DeMint added: "I guess if you're looking for a motive, you'd have to look in that direction."
CRS, a nonpartisan agency of the Library of Congress created to conduct research for members of Congress on legislative issues, changed its policy in February -- a month after Democrats took control of the Congress and vowed to curb the number of special-interest projects inserted into spending bills or even reports that don't require a vote.
CRS Director Daniel P. Mulhollan developed the policy after consulting with "internal CRS appropriations experts" and deciding the service was redundant with what other agencies do, CRS spokeswoman Janine D'Addario said.
"His decision was strictly an internal decision," said Miss D'Addario, whose agency began providing Congress members with information on earmarks in 1994, when Mr. Mulhollan took over as director.
CRS said the Office of Management and Budget recently has been taking on a greater role in monitoring earmarks. And with both chambers of Congress this year establishing new guidelines and clearer definitions of earmarks, the agency said its role as a scorekeeper of earmarks is obsolete.
Several lawmakers, particularly those who had come to rely on the agency to identify the dollar value of earmarks in appropriations and other laws, were caught off guard by the change.
"It's troubling -- I can't think of any justification for that," said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican. "They've done good research in the past. ... That's what they're here for -- the benefit of the members" of Congress.
Democratic leaders with the House and Senate appropriations committees say they did not persuade Mr. Mulhollan to drop his agency's earmark practice.
Mr. DeMint said no other agency or group has the resources, expertise and access to provide Congress with data on earmarks.
"This is really baffling that CRS would do this," he said.
When Democrats took control of the 110th Congress in January, they promised to limit the long-standing and bipartisan practice of slipping pork spending into bills. But when the House last week passed a $124 billion emergency war-funding provision, the bill included as much as $20 billion in nonmilitary and pork-barrel spending, a move widely criticized by Republicans, including President Bush.