McCain the pork buster

Jacon Sullum:

ON Friday March 21, a House Appropriations Committee Web site was so overwhelmed by legislators' wish lists that it crashed, forcing the committee to extend the deadline for earmark requests until the next Monday. Most members of Congress seem to think the problem with earmarks is like the problem with the committee's server: not any particular person's demands, just all of them together.

On the face of it, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, and the two remaining contenders for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, take a different view: All three supported a one-year moratorium on earmarks that the Senate recently rejected by a wide margin. But only McCain has taken a principled stand against the pet projects that legislators love to slip into spending bills.

"We Republicans came to power in 1994 to change government," McCain told the Riverside, Calif., Press Enterprise last year, "and the government changed us. That's why we lost the election: We began to value power over principle."

For McCain, ever-escalating earmarks symbolized how power corrupted the Republicans. It was not just in the most glaring ways, as when Randy Cunningham, the former Republican congressman from San Diego, exchanged defense earmarks for bribes. It was also in the far more common and accepted practice of using earmarks to reward campaign contributors and buy votes.

More fundamentally, Republicans betrayed their commitment to fiscal restraint (not to mention their responsibility to uphold the Constitution) by spending federal tax dollars on local matters.

As McCain puts it on his campaign Web site, earmarks "divert taxpayer dollars to special interest pet projects with little or no national value." He warns that "every dollar irresponsibly spent by Congress is a dollar diverted from pressing national priorities."


"Pork-barrel spending," McCain says, "is an insult to taxpayers, a waste of public resources, and an abdication of our leaders' responsibility to be good and honorable stewards of the public treasury, for the benefit of all Americans, not just a few." He says he wants to end, not mend, earmarks, and in the meantime he declines to seek them for his own state.


In contrast Obama's wife got a raise after he directed an earmark to the place where she works.

McCain probably will not get much love from others in Congress for his stand, but I think the public will back him and I think the contrast with the Democrat nominee favor him.


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