House GOP Backs Away From Real Earmark Moratorium
House Republicans wrap up their three-day retreat at the Greenbrier resort today having taken only modest steps toward their biggest goal for the gathering -- a bold, consensus earmark reform plan that the party can use to invigorate its disillusioned base and paint Democrats as soft on the issue.
Coming into the retreat, many conservative lawmakers and some members of leadership were optimistic that the GOP could agree on a one-year moratorium on new spending earmarks, a ban that Republicans would heed even if Democrats wouldn't.
In the end, however, the GOP could not reach agreement on such a strict ban during their private discussion on the issue Friday night. Instead, the party settled on sending a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) calling for Democrats to agree to a moratorium -- meaning the minority would abstain from earmarks if the majority did too. The letter to Pelosi can be read here.
On a substantive level, the GOP's call for a ban is largely meaningless, since Republicans know Democrats will never agree to one. It's easy to endorse bold action when it's only theoretical. But Republicans still hope that the letter will be at least a start in their effort to put some real distance between them and Democrats on the issue, if only on the public relations level.
Beyond the moratorium idea, the GOP also proposed "the immediate formation of a bipartisan panel for the purpose of identifying ways to end wasteful pork-barrel spending." That's not likely to happen either, especially if the Senate has to get on board.
Republicans did pledge to take a few steps immediately, regardless of whether Democrats agree. They promised to stop asking for "monuments to me," taxpayer-funded projects named after themselves. They promised not to "airdrop" earmarks into conference reports at the last minute. They pledged not to send government funds through "fronts" or "pass-through" groups, and they promised to publicly disclose more information on the purpose and justification of earmarks.
Those are real promises, and Republican leaders have taken pains since Friday night to make clear that this letter is only a start; discussions on earmark reform will continue and could eventually yield a tougher plan. But the problem for GOP lawmakers is that many of them wanted -- and expected -- more.
In his speech to lawmakers Friday morning, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said: "We're here today to ask ourselves: Are Republicans the party that can fix Washington? If so, what sacrifices are we willing to make to PROVE we are that party? We cannot do this without being bold and putting forth fresh solutions. In 1994 we made sacrifices. We gave up perks. We gave up privileges. We took risks. We thought big. We rolled dice. We need to go through this process today and tomorrow with the same mentality."
Meeting about 12 hours after making that speech, neither Boehner nor anyone else in the room could convince enough fellow lawmakers to make such sacrifices. It's still possible that conservatives within the party will agitate enough in the coming weeks that the GOP will come out with something stronger. But in the spirit of 1994 evoked by Boehner, this was their first -- and best -- chance to do something "revolutionary," and they didn't.
January 26, 2008; 11:40 AM ET
Categories: GOP Leaders , Purse Strings
Save & Share: Previous: Bush Presses for Action on Stimulus, Surveillance
Next: Obama-Kennedy Move Will Reverberate in the Senate
Posted by: TheFrog | January 26, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: barnesgene | January 26, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TrackHound | January 26, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Anonymous | January 27, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Stanley | January 27, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Alan Dillingham, Alchemy GS | January 27, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Spencer | January 27, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Miller51550 | February 18, 2008 7:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: iyagjn bhvguzqkx | February 22, 2008 7:14 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: fliysz zsvmxlfko | February 22, 2008 7:14 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.