Congressional Democrats are waging a war on budgetary earmarks. House Democrats have banned
earmarks to private companies, following ethics complaints that earmarks were abused
by lawmakers funneling money to their donors. Republicans have responded with a proposed ban on all earmarks
including to non-profits and local infrastructure projects. This should
seem familiar: In the 2008 presidential race, Republican candidate John
McCain made banning earmarks a central plank of his campaign. So now
that Democats are hopping on the anti-earmarks bandwagon, what should
make of the still-unclear politics and policy?
- Bad News For Lobbyists Roll Call's Anna Palmer reports,
"Lobbyists are bracing for a tumultuous appropriations season following
the decision Wednesday by House Democrats to bar earmarks to for-profit
companies. While K Streeters moved into overdrive on Capitol Hill to
gather intelligence about how specific funding requests will be
affected, lobbyists said lawmakers’ move to ban the Congressional
practice of directing federal money was just for show."
- No-Bid Contract Ban, Great Idea Liberal blogger John Cole faintly praises,
"It makes no sense giving no-bid contracts via earmarks, so this is a
welcome attempt at change, but I still find all the attention given to
the relatively small amount of money spent on earmarks to be amusing.
Hell, the Army spends more on diesel fuel and JP8 every year than congress spends on earmarks, and in a lot of cases, earmarks are completely legit."
- Ban All Earmarks Biz Blogger Andrew Samwick makes the case.
"All discretionary money should be awarded on an open, competitive
basis, with oversight of the executive branch agencies by appropriate
Congressional committees. Earmarks have no place in federal spending,
as a matter of principle," he writes. "It's not the $20 billion hit to
the budget -- federal spending may not even go down if special interest
projects are replaced by meritorious projects. It is the lack of
transparency and the potential for corruption that is the problem."
- Will Senate Follow Suit? The Hill's Susan Crabtree is skeptical,
as Senate Democrats are "fighting over a ban on earmarks to for-profit
companies, throwing a wrench in a House attempt to burnish its ethics
record before the midterm elections." She says this divde "could create
a protracted fight over the fiscal 2011 spending bills."
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