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The Rundown

4:30 p.m. ET: In case you were still wondering what Republicans think of President Obama's earmark reform proposals, the truth can now be told: They don't like it.

At a press conference a few minutes ago, John Boehner said of Obama's plan: "The question I ask is: Where's the beef? Where's the reform? I just don't see it." Instead, Boehner said, "We ought to have an earmark moratorium ... for the remainder of this year" until the two parties can come together and agree on a broader reform package. (Question of the day: What are the chances that will happen? If you answered "none," you win. We also would have accepted "zero.")

12:20 p.m. ET: The earmark announcement has now been made, with Obama calling for new reforms even as he admitted he was signing "an imperfect bill."

Obama's announcement came shortly after House Democratic leaders beat him to the punch by unveiling some earmark reforms of their own. Their proposal, like Obama's, calls for competitive selection or bidding of any earmark that would go to a for-profit entity. How will Republicans react, and will these dual reform plans put the subject of earmarks to rest for awhile? Hill Democrats would very much like to talk about something else now, and hope Obama will too.

8 a.m. ET: President Obama will make "an announcement about earmark reform" later this morning, according to the White House, less than 24 hours after the Senate cleared for his signature a $410 billion omnibus bill packed full of earmarks.

The timing is deliberate, but striking all the same. The effect will be to suggest that Obama is holding his nose to sign the omnibus bill, even though it was written by his own party and his administration made almost no effort to change it during the legislative process. Obama is not new to the subject of earmark reform. Exactly one year ago yesterday, the then-Senator and candidate from Illinois signed on to a proposal to impose a one-year moratorium on earmarks. That went nowhere, and it's unclear whether Obama's new, as-yet-undisclosed plan will have any better prospects, given that most Democratic lawmakers (and, privately, many Republican lawmakers) believe earmarks are a valid and important congressional prerogative.

Obama also needs not to alienate any members of his own party unnecessarily, since, as Reuters writes, the surprisingly difficult path to passage for the omnibus bill does not bode well for the Senate prospects of the president's budget. Susan Collins predicts "big trouble" for the spending blueprint, and Kent Conrad, the Budget Committee chairman, said flat-out Tuesday that the bill doesn't have the votes to pass right now. And the president will certainly need extra political momentum if he wants to move a second stimulus bill, which the Appropriations panel will soon begin drafting.

Speaking of bills that don't yet have the votes to pass, key House and Senate Democrats introduced the Employee Free Choice Act yesterday, formally kicking off a titanic fight over a measure that is organized labor's top priority for the year and the business community's top target. Despite Tom Harkin's assertion that "the support is there" for the bill, it appears to be several votes short of 60 right now, and all Harry Reid would say yesterday about timing was that he hoped the Senate could consider it before the August recess. Add in the fact that Obama appears open to a possible compromise on the measure, and this may not be the quick, clean win labor unions have been hoping for since the day he won the White House with their help.

The Fix reports that the White House will announce Gil Kerlikowske has been chosen as the nation's drug czar today. That fills one personnel opening, even as the administration lost yet another nominee yesterday amid controversy. Charles Freeman withdrew from consideration for chairman of the National Intelligence Council after critics -- led by the blogosphere -- raised questions about his ties to Saudi Arabia and past comments on Israel and China. Freeman did have his defenders too, but they were not enough to overcome opposition from some key members of Congress. The perennial question when a nominee withdraws: Did Team Obama not know about Freeman's background? Or did they know all about it, and figure it wouldn't be a problem? Which is worse?

You can never really shed your past. Just ask David Vitter, who can hardly do anything now without some reference to his "very serious sin" involving prostitutes. On Thursday, Roll Call reports, the Louisiana senator pulled a classic "do you know who I am?" routine at Dulles airport, trying to board an airplane after the door was closed, yelling at an airline employee and then leaving the scene before security could arrive. One would have thought, the newspaper points out, that Vitter "might have learned just a little something from his sex-scandal embarrassment about impulse control."

Now you can get Political Browser updates on Twitter. Just head over to postbrowser and click "follow."

By Ben Pershing  |  March 11, 2009; 8:05 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Please !
"Packed full of earmarks" As distateful as they are, earmarks represent only about
2% of the omnibus bill. Your comment helps to further mislead the public about what is and isn't in this bill, what earmarks REALLY are and how they get there, who put these specific ones in there and when, what are these specific earmarks and who benefits from them and that this bill is the result of LAST YEAR's Congress and Bush being unable to pass an APPROPRIATIONS bill to keep the government running in THIS fiscal year-- appropriations to fund the budget that we are now almost half way through. Come on !
Yes, there needs to be MUCH more transparency about what goes into these bills, when, how by whom and for whom, and it seems that is EZACTLY what Pres Obama is attempting to do. This is another mess the grand and glorious W left behind--or was he going to fix it with another "signing statement" to give more slop to Uncle Dick's Haliburton buddies ?
How about some more facts and INFORMATION, Ben.

Posted by: jmsbh | March 11, 2009 8:23 AM

I don't understand this: if these are important needs, why can't they be considered on their own merit?

Posted by: linda_521 | March 11, 2009 8:46 AM

Why do people keep reporting that Obama said he was going to end earmarkes or imply that he was going to do so? He said the process needed reform, but never said he would eliminate them. He did say he would not request them anymore. However, those of you who think that eliminating earmarks will cut spending significantly, don't understand what earmarks are. An earmark is funding that a certain district would receive anyway. Congress just directs how some of the money will be spent.

When will there be some more honest reporting on earmarks? The main stream media really needs to engage some fact checkers so they can report the truth such that, "Earmarks alone do not swell the budget".


Posted by: chibeardan | March 11, 2009 8:48 AM

chibeardan wrote:

An earmark is funding that a certain district would receive anyway. Congress just directs how some of the money will be spent.

Not true in almost all cases. An earmark is a diversion of money that has been requested in the President's Budget for spending in another district, or (in most cases) additive funding to the President's Budget. In many cases an earmark is Federal spending for projects that should be funded by the state or local government, such as building a library or park. In other cases, earmarks divert funding for a Federal procurement from one contractor who originally won the contract to a favored contractor in a member's district or state. In these cases the earmark is a perversion of the Federal Acquisition Regulations and is, more often than not, a pay-off for campaign contributions.

While it is true that you can't balance the Federal budget by eliminating earmarks, they are wasteful spending in that they serve little purpose other than to allow members of Congress to reward supporters and curry favor with targeted voter populations.

Posted by: hisroc | March 11, 2009 10:13 AM

The president made it clear in his campaign that one of the changes we could count on was the elimination of the fiscally abusive practice of earmarks. Both parties have abused and are abusing this loophole where this kind of spending is not procedurally evaluated on its merits.
This bill was crafted by the president's party so no blame can go to his political opponents. To sign it under our current economic situation, after all the ideoligical pork in the stimulous bill, is to sacrifice his intergity. George H.W. Bush once campaigned with a promise of 'Read my lips, No New Taxes' which promise he broke. By signing it, Obama joins a dubious club of lying politicians, and clealry signals that no amount of wastefull spending is too much. I had hoped for so much more in terms of fiscal discipline.

Posted by: SayWhat4 | March 11, 2009 11:14 AM

Bullcrap. This bill was written last years with 40% of republican earmarks in it. No LINE ITEM VETO. Therefore, the only possible action for the President would have been to veto the whole bill and by doing so render government around the country moneyless and useless.

Posted by: mackiejw | March 11, 2009 11:49 AM

The truth isn't good enough for republicans, or republican sympathizers - compulsive liers!
As has been pointed out:: 40% of the earmarks were from republicans - who did not question, not request dropping any of their earmarks.
And, this was agreed to, and put together by REPUBLICANS before Obama took office!

Posted by: stodayxx | March 11, 2009 12:04 PM


cc: VP Joe Biden; DHS Sec. Janet Napolitano; Defense Sec. Robert Gates; Sec. of State Hillary R. Clinton; CIA Dir. Leon Panetta; FBI Dir. Robert Mueller; Secret Service Dir. Mark Sullivan



Seattle Police Chief Kerlikowske, the drug czar designate, knows from the inside how community policing programs funded by FEMA, DOJ and other agencies were transmogrified by secretive Bush administration ideologues in security, law enforcement and intel agencies into a constitutionally-exempt citizen vigilante army...

...an "American Gestapo" that has usurped local law enforcement and has violated civil and human rights of U.S. citizens "targeted" by federal security and intelligence agencies as "undesirables," "dissidents," or "mental defectives."

Obama officials and Congress should quiz Kerlikowske on what he knows about the following human and civil rights abuses that have been reported by victims of this officially-sanctioned vigilantism -- deemed legal by the now-discredited Bush DOJ "torture memos":

* Silent, covert microwave radiation weapons assaults on innocent but "targeted" U.S. citizens;

* Terroristic vigilante community gang stalking, surreptitious home entry, police-tolerated vandalism;

* Secret federal "programs of personal financial destruction" that have politicized the IRS, which victims say has been used as a tool of "social cleansing."



Now you have on your team an official who can tell you the WHOLE truth -- so you can compare his account with what you have been told by your Bush holdovers.


FOR MORE on the ongoing extrajudicial punishment network:


OR (if links are corrupted / disabled):

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 11, 2009 12:04 PM

2% is 8 billion. That is real money. I would live large for the rest of my days if I had 8 Billion. Minimizing it is a false argument.

Obama though only wants Republican earmarks to be cut. That's why he wants to review them line by line, so he can pick the Democratic members' earmarks. They will be called something else after this.

Posted by: thelaw1 | March 11, 2009 12:13 PM

Yes, 40% of earmarks were from Republicans. Since the GOP makes up about 40% of the Congress this is about as surprising as waking up on New Years Day and finding out it's January. During the years they held the Congress they decided to be Democrat Lite and buy people's votes. Well, why vote Lite when you can drink the Kool Aid full strength? Abandoning their principles is what put them in the minority again.

Obama can not do ANYTHING about earmarks now. Each House, according to the Constitution, is the governing body of its own rules. If he wanted to reform the Senate, he should have STAYED in the Senate.

Posted by: EJHill | March 11, 2009 12:15 PM

Obama blew it! He had a chance by vetoing this bill to to challenge congress to do the right thing. But we now have politics as usual, promising one thing during the campaign and doing another once elected.

Posted by: green102 | March 11, 2009 1:24 PM

Obama is a complete liar - there should not be 1 earmark.

Posted by: hclark1 | March 11, 2009 2:42 PM

"The timing is deliberate, but striking all the same. The effect will be to suggest that Obama is holding his nose to sign the omnibus bill, even though it was written by his own party and his administration made almost no effort to change it during the legislative process."

If the bill was authored solely by his own party, as you slyly insinuate, why are 40% of the earmarks from Republicans?

If you haven't noticed, the administration has a lot on its plate right now, and a protracted fight with Congress over a bill written before he was elected will not serve the nation's broader interests.

Obama is setting out guidelines for future earmarks, and in the meantime most of the projects in the current bill still serve to stimulate our faltering economy.

Finally, a substantial part of the commentariat expects Obama to dictate to Congress. Obama is still a community organizer. He knows that even if you are in a position to give orders (which he isn't), genuine change comes from within, and starts with raising consciousness about issues. The houses of Congress are in charge of their own rules and procedures. Reform will be the outcome of a process, not a veto threat.

Posted by: j2hess | March 11, 2009 3:17 PM

We've children for congress and liars for parents. As I and many others that voted for Obama's change,and goverment ways. I'm so dispointed at myself that I believed in him that he would be honest enough to change the ways our children played.
When my children did something, they were punished. When congress does something wrong the parent rewards them with Pork!

Posted by: bpfeifer | March 11, 2009 4:53 PM

I must have missed the news reports of Boner demanding that all (3600) Republican earmarks be removed form the bill - regardless of what the democrats did?

I'm sure Democrats would have obliged, had he made the offer. Hypocrite!

Posted by: stodayxx | March 11, 2009 5:11 PM

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