Earmark Reform Actually Happening?

Some unalloyed good news from Congress.

Democrats tidying up a cluster of unfinished spending bills dumped on them by departing Republican leaders in Congress will start by removing billions of dollars in lawmakers' pet projects next month.

The move, orchestrated by the incoming chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, could prove politically savvy even as it proves unpopular with other members of Congress, who as a group will lose thousands of so-called earmarks.

"There will be no congressional earmarks," Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said Monday in a statement announcing their plans, which were quickly endorsed by incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D- Nev.

This is the sort of stuff I'm talking about when I suggest libertarians can shack up with Democrats in the short term. It's not that Democrats are constitutionally against earmarking; it's that voter anger is so apparent and Republican abuse got so flagrant that the party of big government is more likely to pass reforms of the appropriations process than Republicans would have been if voters shoved them back over the finish line. Could Democrats re-corrupt the process given a few terms in power? Maybe, and then libertarians can dump them. The important part is being flexible.

UPDATE: To clarify whether this is meaningless or not; I'm reporting a story on pork and earmarks now and the reformers at places like OMB Watch think this is, indeed, a prelude to some reform. Note Republican Jim DeMint's comment in the piece.

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  • ||

    Filed under "I'll believe it when I see it."

  • ||

    Robert Byrd is against earmarks. Are you sure this isn't an Onion parody the wire services picked up by mistake? Is there another Senator Byrd I don't know about? Has the old one been replaced by an evil clone, or that robot they used to replace the last three Soviet premiers before Gorbachev? (5 points to anyone who can name all of those guys.)

  • ||

    Brezhnev, Chernenko and the aptly named Andropov.

    Kevin

  • ||

    BTW, I googled after posting. The order was B, A, C.

    Kevin

  • ||

    Ah, yes.

    The 15 minutes of reform before it's back to business as usual.

  • ||

    And Kevin wins!!! There was a librarian at my law school whom we all were certain was Chernenko in drag, thus I always remember him.

  • ||

    All the quote says is that they are killing off the earmarks on the current spending bills. Well no shit, those were written by Republicans and no doubt mostly benifit Republicans. There is nothing in the article to indicate they are actually reforming the process and ending earmarks all together, just taking "time-out" on earmarks just in time to stick it to the other party. Good for them, but it doesn't mean anything in the long term.

  • ||

    ""There will be no congressional earmarks," Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. ..."

    Only Nixon could go to China?

  • ||

    Chernenko, Breshnev, and Andropov.

  • Jeremy Lott||

    I think they meant to say "...no earmarks for Republicans."

  • ||

    John,

    Did you ever try petting the puppy when it didn't crap on the floor?

    People who stand with the Democrats on this today will be in a position to call them on it if they fall off the wagon in the future.

    People who whack them either way will be dismissed as partisan hacks if they try to do the same thing.

  • ||

    "People who whack them either way will be dismissed as partisan hacks if they try to do the same thing"

    I am not whacking them, I am just pointing out the fact that they haven't reformed anything. All they are doing is killing off the other parties perks. That isn't a bad thing. The pork is lousy regardless of who does it. But the Democrats are not reforming anything. To claim otherwise is just a lie. This story is a big yawn. Yes, one party wins and sticks it to the other party when given the opportunity. This is news why?

  • ||

    I, too, am reluctant to believe Senator Byrd has suddenly got that old time fiscal responsibilty religion. There remains plenty of open ground in West Virginia suitable for paving.

    Are we talking actual procedural reforms, or merely substituting the pet projects of the winners for the pet projects of the losers?

  • ||

    Earmarks? Where we're going we don't need earmarks.

    Robert Byrd
    Back to the Future

  • ||

    Joe-That's a very fair point. At the same time, when the puppy has a lengthy track record of crapping on the floor despite all attempts at training, one can be forgiven for a lack of enthusiasm for positive reinforcement.
    Really, it's not a Democrat or Republican issue. It's a Congress issue, and, in the larger sense, a politician issue.

  • ||

    Unalloyed my kiester. The money from the earmarks is apparently still in the budget, just now it will be doled out soley at the whim of the executive.

    As for any meaningful earkmark reform, you'll pardon me if I remain skeptical.

  • ||

    "People who stand with the Democrats on this today will be in a position to call them on it if they fall off the wagon in the future.

    People who whack them either way will be dismissed as partisan hacks if they try to do the same thing."

    BZZZZT! Wrong.

    Anybody who calls them on a return to earmarks will be dismissed as a 'partisan hack'. In politics, anything more than two days old is ancient history & doesn't count.

    Wrong

  • ||

    Number 6,

    "Really, it's not a Democrat or Republican issue. It's a Congress issue, and, in the larger sense, a politician issue."

    That would be much more credible if the explosion of earmarks hadn't coincided so closely with the period of Republican control in Washington.

  • ||

    Democrats, facing a huge bind in having to complete nine unfinished budget bills at the same time they want to advance their own agenda, say they now plan to advance a single spending bill covering 13 Cabinet departments. The unappealing alternative was a time- and energy-consuming legislative slog just as President Bush's new budget and a $100 billion-plus Iraq funding bill are due to arrive on Capitol Hill.

    Forgive me if I don't seethe good in stuffing a single spending bill with what normally would take many debated budgets, particularly so the Democrats can get on with funding Bush's war in Iraq.

    How again is this a good thing?

  • ed||

    Suckers.

  • Timothy||

    Could Democrats re-corrupt the process given a few terms in power? Maybe, and then libertarians can dump them. The important part is being flexible.

    The Democrats will re-corrupt the process as soon as the 2008 election is over, to be generous. I say they'll be back at it for the 2008 budget in late 2007.

  • Guy Montag||

    I thought the cDc stopped pulling pranks on the wire services in the last century.

    Can this article be re-posted right after 31 March 2007 passes?

    Thanks.

  • ||

    Well, one side or the other is going to look pretty stupid in six months.

    I'm coming out and staking my credibility on the following assertion:

    The 110th Congress will be notable for positive reforms in the budget process, and will be much more fiscally responsible than the previous two Congresses.

    Who wants to come out against me, by name? John? Jeremy Lott? ed? Arensen?

    I double dog dare you to declare yourselves, so we can go back and check in six months.

  • ||

    Maybe we should make it interesting.

    Say, a pledge to vote for the winning side's candidate in the 2008 election?

    Let's set benchmarks: if the Democrats do X, Y, and Z, you all will vote for Hillary/Feingold in 2008. If they do not, I'll vote for McCain/Brownback.

    Hello? Anyone there?

  • Guy Montag||

    john,

    Well, having some experience in one fo the smaller budgets (Defense), I shall take your challenge.

    Little or no positive reform in the budget process will be attributable to the 110th Congress. I have my red pen ready to grade them and post the results six months from this date.

  • ||

    I think David has a good point. Yes, the Dems are, historically, the party of earmarks and pork-barrelling. But the GOP has totally abandoned any claim to fiscal responsibility, and the Dems clearly see an opportunity in reforming earmarks that will give the party as a whole a positive image, even if individual members suffer because they can't bring home the pork. Given all the flap from the Bridge to Nowhere, etc., this may be a gamble worth taking.

    Of course, this could mean the Dems are pushing for reform strictly for political reasons, but hey, welcome to Washington D.C. If this gets it done, this gets it done.

  • ||

    Define X, Y, Z and I'm in.

  • ||

    Wow, joe, you're brave or foolish. I generally vote Democrat, and even I don't really believe they're going to seriously amend the budget process.

  • ||

    panurge,

    "Yes, the Dems are, historically, the party of earmarks and pork-barrelling."

    Uh, no, that's incorrect. Do a Google search on earmarks by year. It's really quite dramatic how low they were before the Republican Revolution, and how much they immediately increased once they took Congress, both in number of projects, and in dollar amounts.

  • ||

    Cab,

    Come, let us reason together. How about this:

    X = Pay-Go Rules.

    Y = Lower budget deficit than any produced in the 108th or 109th Congress.

    Z = Lower earmarks, in both count and dolllar value, than in any budget produced by the 107th, 108th, or 109th Congress.

  • Guy Montag||

    john,

    Sorry, I ment joe and no I don't agree to these rules. I will be grading this in the same manner as English teachers grade the answer to any question that begins with "what do you think is".

  • ||

    "...they now plan to advance a single spending bill covering 13 Cabinet departments. The unappealing alternative was a time- and energy-consuming legislative slog...."

    Well- that is an improvement. We certainly wouldn't want them to actually have to slog through a qualitative analysis of anything.

  • ||

    Guy,
    Time will tell. Who knows maybe the Democrats will get religion and become the party of spending restraint. If they do, good for them. All I am saying is that knocking out the Republican earmarks doesn't mean anything one way or another.

  • Timothy||

    joe: I don't think "lower budget deficit" is much of a figure, it's a product of tax revenues (which are cyclical), spending, and government accounting tricks. I think your X and Z are totally reasonable benchmarks for your proposed wager, however.

    I, of course, won't take you up on your bet because I don't want to vote for EITHER Hillary/Anyone or McCain/Anyone, and especially not McCain/Brownback. I also won't vote for a Dem if they still hold Congress, because I think the corruption and other problems we've had the last few congresses is more a products of single-party control than of any one party being less evil and/or less stupid.

  • ||

    X = Pay-Go Rules.

    I'll take it

    Y = Lower budget deficit than any produced in the 108th or 109th Congress.

    Z = Lower earmarks, in both count and dolllar value, than in any budget produced by the 107th, 108th, or 109th Congress.


    I can't take Y and Z... they are no-brainers. The Democrats would never intentionally spend more than the Repubs in the next two years. They will hold off until they have the White House at least.

    For Y and Z, how about these?

    X - Come out publically against any single payer health care reform or anything else that attempts to remove market forces from our health care system.

    Y - Confirm a "strict constructionist" Supreme Court nominee, if presented one.

  • ||

    This is the sort of stuff I'm talking about when I suggest libertarians can shack up with Democrats in the short term.

    That's the thing; even if we want to shack up, the Dem leadership surely views us as one-night-stand material, at best. I don't see us fitting in too well in a household run by the NEA and gun control nutjobs.

    Could Democrats re-corrupt the process given a few terms in power? Maybe, and then libertarians can dump them.

    Heh. Yep, this election was all about earmarks, and if the Dems don't reform on that subject, the voters will toss them out just like they tossed out the Repubs. Of course, it will help if the Dems start an unpopular war and have a couple of scandals involving minors and sex...

  • ||

    Timothy,

    If the economy booms and tax revenues skyrocket, and the Democrats don't take the bait, and pass bills that keep a lid on spending such that the deficit goes down significantly, why isn't that evidence of restraint?

    Cab,

    If I were in your position, I'd try to change the subject, too. Health care? Judicial nominees? What's the matter, you don't want to talk about budget issues?

  • Timothy||

    joe: Restraint, to my mind, indicates cutting. Calling simply not raising spending as much as tax revenues increase "restraint" is like saying somebody who's only eating four Big Macs instead of five is showing restraint.

  • ||

    You would base your presidential vote entirely on budget issues?

  • ||

    joe, I couldn't take that bet because I was thinking of voting for Hillary (in the unlikely event the donkeys nominate her) anyway. Yes, I really, really do hate McCain that much. And, besides, I think it would be really interesting to see what a marvellous trainwreck a Hillary administration woud be.

  • Timothy||

    Shit, I'd base my presidential vote on Santeria, voodoo, Christianity, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, and ghost stories if I thought it would help.

  • ||

    The real issue is how big should the federal government be. Currently, the government takes about 18% of GDP in taxes. My position is that if anything that is too much but it is certainly large enough. If the Democrats were committed to keeping the tax rates the same and cutting spending to balance the budget, I would be on board. Their sollution is instead to raise taxes back up as high as they dare politically and make a few symbolic spending cuts like this. All raising taxes does is ensure that we spend a larger and larger portion of GDP on the federal government.

  • ||

    I have to resist the urge to make the obvious, but on point, Robert Byrd against earmarks statement. Must resist...Must resist...
    Aaagh, I wish Bush would go ahead and do something stupid so I will remember why I supported the Dems this election (fortunately that should be taken of soon unless he's physically tied down)...

  • ||

    Timothy, I based my vote on voodoo economics once. Does that count?

    Seriously, joe. I wasn't trying to change the subject, or to be a dick. I was just trying to figure out what it would take for me to vote for Hillary. It is going to take a whole hell of a lot more than "lower deficits as expressed as a percentage of GDP for two consecutive calendar years" or the like. I assume you wouldn't vote for a Republican if deficits ticked up a tenth of a percent over the next two years either.

  • ||

    joe

    I can't vote in the 2008 US Presidential election. Little problem with citizenship. I'm Canadian.

    For bragging rights, however, this is what I would insist on:

    1) A decrease in the deficit WITHOUT a tax increase.
    2) Non-military spending must decrease as a percentage of GDP.
    3) No new spending initiatives - whether or not vetoed by President Bush.
    4) Passage of any free trade agreement WITHOUT strings attached. [I.E. no "environmental" or "working conditions" requirements tacked on.]

    If the Dems give you 3 out of 4 by Nov 3/08, you win bragging rights.

  • ||

    Jesus Arsen,

    If the Democrats did that, I would vote for them.

  • ||

    "There will be no congressional earmarks,"

    "Henceforth, they shall be known as chinmarks."

  • ||

    Well, one side or the other is going to look pretty stupid in six months.

    I'm coming out and staking my credibility on the following assertion:

    The 110th Congress will be notable for positive reforms in the budget process, and will be much more fiscally responsible than the previous two Congresses.

    Who wants to come out against me, by name? John? Jeremy Lott? ed? Arensen?

    I double dog dare you to declare yourselves, so we can go back and check in six months.


    Congress has been playing budget "reform" games now for at least 3 decades (most likely far longer, but this is my memeory) with no real results. Each successive effort is larded with so many loopholes as to be wholly ineffective. Witness the splurge of "emergency" spending, which is off-budget. Other attempts, such as Gramm-Rudman, had many a trigger that would nulify spending restrictions.

    The other posters have already noted the flaws in this bet, so no point in flogging them more.

    My bet is that nothing will really change, other than the color of the curtains. Lots of promises will be made, much politcial hay will be thrown, but nothing will change.

  • ||

    If they wanted it to be believable, they should have left Byrd out of it. I'm still laughing.

    Good joke. Very good. Too bad it's just that.

  • ||

    Favor trading arguments aside, let's not forget that earmarks don't add one cent to the deficit. The real enemy continues to remain unchecked manditory spending.

  • ||

    Did you ever try petting the puppy when it didn't crap on the floor?

    People who stand with the Democrats on this today will be in a position to call them on it if they fall off the wagon in the future.

    What curious logic, if only because of the implication that if you don't clap your hands and believe in faeries, you have no place to criticize them for failing.

    Team Blue might accomplish budget reform. That would be nice. Team Blue might accomplish something more critical, like stopping torture. That would be great.

    But it all remains to be seen...and after three years of being told Americans needed had to believe in the war for things to work out in Iraq, I can't be bothered to play along with the Democratic budgetary version.

  • ||

    Call it "reality-based" spending criticism.

  • Shaved Hillary \'08||

    I will shave the deficit.
    I have the technology.
    I will make it better than it was.

  • ||

    Thread! Thread!

    Speak to me! Thread!

    Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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