The Dems Are Missing an Opportunity on Earmarks

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Dems Are Missing an Opportunity on Earmarks

Bob Novak is a strange bird. He is wrong on so many issues, but he's right on this one -- congressional earmarks. Of course, these are the pet spending projects that have little or nothing to do with the larger bills in which they are quietly incorporated. Earmarks should be the target of anyone who deplores the bridges-to-nowhere nonsense, the incumbent protection and the "honor among thieves" mentality that passes in Washington for a Congress.

In his most recent column, Novak writes that the leadership of both parties are quite smitten with earmarks:
"Who knows best where to put a bridge or a highway or a red light in their district?" said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, defending earmarks on the Michael Reagan radio program. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on PBS: "There's nothing basically wrong with the earmarks. They've been going on since we were a country."
Not exactly. As Novak points out:
The 1982 highway bill contained 10 earmarked pork projects; 150 earmarks in the 1987 bill helped provoke a veto by President Reagan; the number rose to 1,400 in 1998, and to 6,300 in 2005.

When Dems controlled the Congress, earmarks were far fewer in number. The party can take some solace in that. But some Dems have enthusiastically embraced the earmark process to steer money to their pet projects with few, if any, hearings or discussion.

Democrats could go a long way toward shedding their big-spender image by publicly opposing earmarks or at least proposing rules that bring some sanity to the process.

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