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Congressional Earmarks

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Despite Senators McCain and Coburn’s best efforts to strip the current Congressional spending of earmarks, Congress refused.

The catch-all spending bill currently on the Senate floor has $7.7 billion in earmarks, and there are another $6.6 billion in the funding bills approved in September. Critics say these spending provisions, often included at the request of a single lawmaker, are wasteful and often are accompanied by campaign contributions from earmark beneficiaries and their lobbyists. Reid rejected that suggestion in opposing an amendment that would strip more than $8 million in earmarks to clients of the lobbying firm PMA Group, which is now under federal investigation for donation irregularities.

The catch-all spending bill currently on the Senate floor has $7.7 billion in earmarks, and there are another $6.6 billion in the funding bills approved in September. Critics say these spending provisions, often included at the request of a single lawmaker, are wasteful and often are accompanied by campaign contributions from earmark beneficiaries and their lobbyists. Reid rejected that suggestion in opposing an amendment that would strip more than $8 million in earmarks to clients of the lobbying firm PMA Group, which is now under federal investigation for donation irregularities.

Steny Hoyer is correct in stating that determining spending is the responsibility of Congress, not the President.

“I, philosophically, believe that it would be an undermining of the Article I responsibilities given to the Congress of the United States,” Hoyer said, “if it were to abandon its right to add items that it believes are priorities for our country. . . . That’s our responsibility, and we ought to keep that responsibility.”

Nevertheless, the Founders clearly expected Congress to use fiscal restraint in spending…and wrote about it often. Earmarks, by and large, are drain on the national budget. Worse, they require the entire country to pay for something that benefits only a certain congressional region.

We all know that these earmarks are a way that congressional members can tell their constituents, “See what I did for you.” The problem is that everyone else across the country has to pay for them. If the earkmarked projects are that important for the country as a whole, the projects should be referred to the appropriate department, such as transportation or commerce, and be put on the list of projects according to priority.

As it stands now, either much needed, more important projects are delayed due to lack of departmental funding or the budget spending increases.

There is absolutely no reason for everyone in the country to pay for a special, local project. For example, there’s no reason why the people of New Hampshire should be paying for a something that benefits only Hawaii. Those projects should, by all right, be paid for by the State or local municipalities. Not the Federal government.

With everyone in the country tightening their belts and worrying about next month, Congress should do the same. Both parties need to be told to end the earmarks permanently.

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Written by Valerie Curl

March 5, 2009 at 1:22 AM

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