June 16, 2007

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: More developments:

Toward 2 a.m., Chairman Obey challenged Mr. Flake: “The gentleman has offered a lot of motions in the past two years to strike earmarks. Could I ask him how many of them have been successful?”

“Not one,” Flake responded. “I came to the floor 39 times and was beaten like a rented mule every time.”

But the level of public interest and scrutiny over earmarks has increased since those votes, he said, in an interview. Obey “misjudged the way this is viewed outside the Beltway.” . . .

On Monday, Obey announced a revision of committee policy on earmarks: Instead of including member projects, identified by name in spending bills, earmarks would be fully disclosed before the August recess – after all House votes on spending bills, but before the final appropriations are worked out in a conference with the Senate. Lawmakers objecting to any earmark could send a letter to the committee challenging the project.

The move set off protests from editorial boards to accountability websites in the blogosphere. Within hours of the Obey announcement, more than 770 people volunteered to help Congress vet earmarks this cycle on the porkbusters.org website.

“The question is whether Congress is going to live up to the reforms they promised or create conditions which we know corrupt things: earmarks decided behind closed doors and an opaque process,” says Bill Allison, of the Sunlight Foundation. “There’s no reason not to make the requests public now.”

By the terms of the new deal announced Thursday morning, earmark disclosure rules will not apply to the two spending bills currently on the House floor, Homeland Security and Military Quality of Life. But all 10 remaining FY 2008 spending bills will be subject to the new rule.

Republicans say that they will continue to challenge spending levels in pending appropriations bills – and sustain any presidential veto of spending bills that exceed budget limits – but will call off obstructionist tactics over earmarks. In addition, House Republican leader John Boehner says he will try to force a House vote on a reform that allows members to challenge earmarks in authorizing and tax bills, as well as spending bills.

“Democratic leaders finally surrendered to our demands, because supporting secret earmarks in appropriations bills is indefensible and the American people won’t stand for it,” said Mr. Boehner, in a statement.

Yeah, I’ve said it before, but if the Republicans had been willing to take this kind of stand against pork last year, instead of listening to Trent Lott, they might still be in the majority.

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