You would think Barack Obama's tsunami of federal spending would provide an easy target for Republicans. But they apparently haven't learned the right lessons after two successive electoral debacles.
Earmarks don't account for a lot of money in Washington terms. You know, just a few billion dollars out of trillions or quadrillions or whatever we are now up to -- it's so easy to lose track!
Nevertheless, earmarks are a powerful symbol. So trust the "stupid party" to muff its chance. Reports Politico:
Bashing Democrats on the day President Obama signed the $410 billion omnibus spending bill was the easy part for Republican leaders Wednesday.
But getting Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell on the same page on earmarks will be a lot tougher.
At a joint press conference designed to present a united Republican front against Democratic spending habits, McConnell (R-Ky.) and Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared to diverge on earmark reform.
“I think the president missed a golden opportunity to really fulfill his campaign commitment to not sign bills that have a lot of wasteful spending and are overburdened with earmarks,” Boehner said. “If you look at the earmark reforms that he proposed, the question I have is, ‘Where’s the beef?”
McConnell declined to answer the question about earmarks, and instead criticized the president's contention that the omnibus bill was simply last year's unfinished business.
“Let me tell what was not last year’s business was plussing the bill up 8 percent, which is twice the rate of inflation,” McConnell said. “This bill is not last year’s business. … It further illustrates my point that when you add up the stimulus and the omnibus, the spending in the first 50 days of the administration [comes] at a rate of $1 billion an hour.”
Republicans have tried to come up with a unified earmark reform plan, but have struggled as GOP appropriators are reluctant to sign on. McConnell is on the Senate Appropriations Committee and has called for earmark reforms, but he and many lawmakers defend Congress’ constitutional right to direct spending.
In the omnibus bill, McConnell secured some $75 million worth of earmarks, while Boehner, a long-time critic of earmarks, did not. Boehner says Congress should freeze earmarks for the rest of the year, saying it leads to wasteful and potentially corrupting Washington spending.
Of course, Democrats have taken not. In signing the latest spending bill President Barack Obama landed a nice blow against GOP hypocrisy:
And I also find it ironic that some of those who rail most loudly against this bill because of earmarks actually inserted earmarks of their own and will tout them in their own states and their own districts.
If Congress can't take a vow of poverty on distributing pork when the nation faces a $1.3 trillion budget deficit and trillions more in deficits over the coming years, then it isn't likely ever to be more responsible with the public's money.