Earmark Reform and Eight Great Americans
Lots of talk about supposed earmark reform of late, and it looks like today the Senate Republican Conference will be holding a closed-door vote on Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) proposed ban. Two interesting developments yesterday: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell performed an about face and came out in support of an outright ban on earmarks, despite his long held belief that earmarking was not only a constitutional right, but more responsive to the needs of the people. Later in the day, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) came to the floor and gave a robust defense to the practice of earmarking. In so doing, he even introduced legislation that mirrored exactly the five principles of real earmark reform CREW has been advocating with a bipartisan group of lobbyists and government reform groups over the course of the past few months. Here is an excerpt of Sen. Inhofe's speech on the floor yesterday:
"That gets back to S. 3939. I am very proud of that, and I wish to say there is a happy ending to this story mostly because of that Senate bill. I would like to take credit for that but I am not going to do it because I can't. I wasn't that smart. But there are eight great Americans-and let's put that chart up, if you would, Luke-eight great Americans and the conservative groups they represent-Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste; Melanie Sloan, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; Steve Ellis, Taxpayers for Common Sense; Craig Holman, Public Citizen; Jim Walsh, Rich Gold, Manny Rouvelas, and Dave Wenhold- and thanks to them we can put the earmarks issue to rest. They authored the ‘‘5 Principles of Earmark Reform,'' ... S. 3939 will address all of these specifically. There are people in Washington who go through a lot of work making a lot of studies, and they assume we never read these things or care about them. But if you believe that, you are wrong because I listened, and this is the result-the five principles..."
CREW has long advocated that if the practice of earmarking continues, there must be real transparency and accountability in the process. Over the years, neither party's efforts at reforming the earmarking process has been completely successful. In this light, CREW applauds Sen. Inhofe for embracing a commonsense approach to end the abuse of earmarking.
We will know by the end of the day whether Senate Republicans will institute a party ban on earmarks. If they don't, we strongly urge members to take up and pass Sen. Inhofe's legislation. No matter how small a percentage of the budget, many Americans see earmarks as a symbol of self-serving politicians and believe their hard-earned tax dollars are being frittered away on wasteful projects. True or not, passing this legislation would help restore Americans' diminished confidence in Congress.
If you are interested in learning more about CREW's coalition and the five principles of real earmark reform, click here to watch a recent congressional briefing with Melanie Sloan and the other participants.