Democrats' betrayal on earmarks

Rep. John Boehner:


The Democratic majority came to power in January promising to do a better job on earmarks. They appeared to preserve our reforms and even take them a bit further. I commended Democrats publicly for this action.

Unfortunately, the leadership reversed course. Desperate to advance their agenda, they began trading earmarks for votes, dangling taxpayer-funded goodies in front of wavering members to win their support for leadership priorities.

The Democrats' retreat began quietly, with passage of a "continuing resolution" in February that contained hidden earmarks. It steadily became more blatant. A troop funding bill was loaded with pork-barrel spending for things like spinach and peanuts--which one top Democrat publicly conceded was only in the bill to buy votes. Members were denied the ability to challenge individual earmarks on the House floor, stepping back from our original reforms and leaving members with no way to force a floor debate and vote on any earmark, even if it violated the rules or was particularly egregious.

By June, the leadership's dismal retreat culminated in a plan to pass appropriations bills loaded with slush funds for secret earmarks. The plan was met with a torrent of public criticism from voices across the political spectrum, and rightly so. House Republicans rallied to defeat the "secret earmarks" plan. It was a spirited fight: Everyone pitched in, and we fought with an energy found only in legislators who believe in their cause. It was a sign of a Republican Party beginning to return to its roots, breaking with past errors, and reconnecting with its principles. We forced Democrats to abandon their ill-conceived plan.

Now it's time for the next step. In dropping their plans for slush funds for secret earmarks, the Democrats agreed to require disclosure and debate on earmarks in appropriations bills. But this fix did not apply to tax and authorizing bills, which have historically been vehicles for some of the most indefensible earmarks churned out by Congress.

An authorizing bill was recently the vehicle for an illegitimate earmark requested by Rep. John Murtha (D., Pa.) that shifted $23 million in taxpayer funds to the so-called National Drug Intelligence Center--a facility located in Mr. Murtha's district that was declared "expensive and duplicative" by independent government analysts. The Democrats' bill to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program was loaded up with millions in hospital earmarks that were never debated and never subject to challenge on the House floor.

Under the procedures of the current House leadership, members still cannot force a debate or vote on any earmark in any non-appropriations bill that comes to the floor. This flawed system is ripe for abuse. It steps backward from the reforms Republicans implemented last year and makes a mockery of Democrats' promise to run a more transparent and accountable Congress.

Should it be any surprise that the Democrats practice the politics of fraud? While running against corruption, they come in and make it easier to hide earmarks of dubious merit. This is the same bunch who ran away from the charge that they would favor a cut and run policy from Iraq only to claim that they wre elected to pursue a cut and run policy. Democrat dishonesty on the war is now matched by their dishonest in the spending of public money.


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