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Do Democrats Have a Plan on Earmarks?

Over the last few days, we've learned quite a bit about what House Democrats don't like:

• They don't like President Bush's vow during last night's State of the Union address to veto any appropriations bills that don't cut earmarks in half.

• They don't like Bush's plan to issue an executive order telling agencies to ignore earmarks that aren't written into the legislative text of spending bills.

• They don't like the House GOP's call, made Friday night during the Republican retreat, for both sides to agree to a temporary earmark moratorium.

• They don't like -- or at least haven't shown any enthusiasm for -- Republicans' proposal for a bipartisan select committee to recommend changes to the earmarking process.

So what DO House Democrats like? Do they have a plan of their own?

Faced with this question today, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, "We are discussing next steps. Mr. Obey is discussing next steps with the leadership and with his committee. I will not prematurely anticipate those discussions."

Hoyer was referring to House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.). But Obey didn't really seem inclined to discuss the topic when he was asked.

"As I said yesterday, this is a president who has signed bills with more earmarks than any president in history," Obey said, adding that Bush's "vision is a one-percent solution."

So what about those "discussions" he's holding?

"That's all I have to say on the subject," Obey responded.

To sum up, it doesn't appear that there are active plans right now to come up with a new, Democratic plan to further reform the earmark process. There is still plenty of time left in the year for the party to do so, however, and the subject could come up at the House Democratic retreat, which begins tomorrow in Williamsburg, Va.

As things stand now, Democrats' primary message on earmarks is that they deserve credit for having reduced earmarks significantly since taking control a year ago, and that they have implemented new transparency rules.

They could decide to simply stand on that mantra -- and run on it in November -- or they could conclude that the GOP's attacks on them are gaining traction and move to craft a new plan. But today, nine months out from Election Day, Democrats don't seem particularly nervous about this topic.

By Ben Pershing  |  January 29, 2008; 4:48 PM ET
Categories:  Dem. Leaders , Purse Strings  
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Comments

Well, well, what do we see ? All important liemericans together. Anything to explain about building 7 ladies and gentlemen ? Anything to say about using 9 barrels and finding only 1 new barrel ? Keepin up the good news then, cheerio. I whish PRESIDENT OBAMA a lot of wisdom.

Posted by: jwholtkamp | January 29, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Well, well, what do we see ? All important liemericans together. Anything to explain about building 7 ladies and gentlemen ? Anything to say about using 9 barrels and finding only 1 new barrel ? Keepin up the good news then, cheerio. I whish PRESIDENT OBAMA a lot of wisdom.

Posted by: jwholtkamp | January 29, 2008 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Well lets call tis for tas.NO EARMARK no FAITHBASED FUNDING..NO FUNDING for Ideams that KILL LIKE TABACO, SUGAR, OIL, GMO etc.
No more foreign Aid to countries that kill there CITZEN, Afghanistan, pakistan, israel, Sudan ,Kenia, Indonisia, dafur. and so on.
Hm I was surprise to read that many R. Senator and REP. retiring..well now that the monies is in out of Americas bank..I can see why?...RBS.UK.Amro.HOLLAND .Isevry one leaveing the Schipp of STATE?
.What is still American? God the ALMITGHY is watching.

Posted by: S HOYER | January 30, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Well, it's certain that if the Democrats don't like the talk about reducing earmarks, it's most certain the Republicans hate it more. Bush's call doesn't even address reducing earmarks during his term - now isn't that a cat calling the kettle black. Earmarks skyrocketed (increased by several hundred percent) during Bush's term, with the support of his rubberstamping Republican Congress.

It's easy to bash a process that few people grasp. The bad side of earmarks won't disappear by any rules or Presidential Orders. They'll simply be written into the law, and then they go from bad to worse. Earmarks allow flexibility where flexibility is essential. Unfortunately, the Republican White House and Republican Congress for six years turned earmarks into their personal checkbook for paying back big corporate donors, and paying back wealthy friends who donated to their campaigns.

Bush's grandstanding is another of his typical meaningless bashing methods of governing or lack of governing. He doesn't want the earmarks to end while he's president, but he does want to hand cuff the next president.

It was welcome news that the Democrats began using some sense with regard to earmarks. We need more ingenuity. A good, easy to use web site with all earmarks posted is a good way for students, average citizens, researchers, and independent news media to dig and open up bad programs to the sun light. Maybe a few other ideas like web sites which publish every donation, the donor name, phone number and address, along with any earmarks that directly support the donors' companies or family, could go a long way in letting the American people know the real truth.

Sunshine law approach works. Brash swipes of the pen for political partisanship do not.

Posted by: Tommy | January 31, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

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