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Obama Catches Grief for Spending Bill Earmark

UPDATE, 4:45 p.m.: The earmark in question with President Obama's name on it in the omnibus spending bill will no longer bear his name, the White House tells us.

Moreover, the president's original request for funding for the educational program - which was made last year when Obama was still a senator - was never intended to be a request for an earmark, a White House spokesman says.

As you can see in this letter signed by Obama, the original request was to restore funding to a longstanding vocational education program that President Bush had targeted for elimination.

"President Obama requested funding for the broader educational program. It was not an earmark," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor tells us.

Throughout the appropriations process, however, as funding for other educational projects was tacked on to the original funding request, the set-aside bearing Obama's name and those of dozens of other lawmakers, did, indeed, unquestionably become an earmark. The earmark wound up including funds for specific tribal educational projects that Obama never requested.

Luckily for the anti-earmark crusading president, the Senate Appropriations Committee has agreed to remove Obama's name from the list of cosponsors of the $7.7 million earmark before the Senate votes on the bill.

Jonathan Allen of Congressional Quarterly, who first reported the earmark story, has this update. Allen quotes Tom Schatz of the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste who says Obama original request for funding was still pork. "They're just parsing words," Schatz tells CQ.

Republicans who have been criticizing the pork-laden omnibus spending bill were quick to jump on the earmark link.

House Minority Leader John Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, tells the Sleuth, "Boehner has been pretty clear about this: the bill that House Democrats passed yesterday does not meet the earmark standards that the president has set, so he should veto it. The fact that it includes an earmark requested by the president himself is just the ironic icing on the cake."


Even before his first ever budget has been reviewed on Capitol Hill, President Obama is getting creamed with charges of hypocrisy for his ties to earmarking in the mammoth spending bill passed this week to keep the government running throughout 2009.

As Jonathan Allen of Congressional Quarterly reports, Obama, who took a "no-earmark pledge" during his presidential campaign, is listed as a cosponsor of a $7.7 million set-aside in the FY09 omnibus spending bill approved by the House on Wednesday.

Woops. That's not at all what White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

On Wednesday, Gibbs said of earmarks in the bill, "There aren't any from him that I know of in that omnibus largely because there weren't any that were requested last year."

The request for the set-aside with Obama's name on it was submitted many months ago, when the president was still a senator. The $7.7 million earmark is for the Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Vocational Institutions, and had many cosponsors, CQ notes.

After Obama declared of his stimulus plan that "we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks" - Republicans have been quick to point out the White House's selective earmarking policies when it came to the omnibus spending bill.

"There are 9,000 reasons to vote against this spending bill - 9,000 earmarks slipped and crammed into this pork-stuffed nightmare," Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), declared Wednesday. "Last night, President Obama bragged about this claim that there were no earmarks in his stimulus bill -- and yet he's silent today as he prepares to put his signature on 9,000 earmarks."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  February 26, 2009; 1:00 PM ET
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That's it, Mary Ann. Channel those GOP talking points. Earn your paycheck.

Posted by: PeterPrinciple | February 26, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Yeah...cuz the Repubs never once had an earmark in their time in power.

W had the most earmarks of any of them whiny losers....

Posted by: RightDownTheMiddle | February 26, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

So there are 9,000 earmarks! That IS news to most of us, I'm sure. Judging from conservative obstructionists one sees quoted on TV and elsewhere, one would think there are far, far fewer earmarks. And the relatively small amount for volcano monitoring certainly is overblown as if it were the most typical and expensive. Even the e-mails I've been getting from nasty ill-informed and easily-led conservatives (whom I swear are driven by status-quo paranoia) only list about 10 or so earmarks they feel others might find most shocking. And these are almost all ones proposed by Democrats--with a token Republican one tossed in as a feeble attempt to create some phony indication of objectivity. The lead-in always is the same old saw about Democratic spending.

That's totally laughable, considering that current spending is aimed at recovery, while previous Bush-era spending effected the destruction from which we must recover.

I'll search the Internet for a list of many more of the 9,000 earmarks before I tar them all with the same broad brush. I'm sure the majority will create jobs, providing wages that will be returned to the community to maintain/create more jobs, etc.--like a snowball rolling downhill (econ 101). The problem will be finding a site not created by some rabid ultra-conservative . . . or just plain racist.

Posted by: TomCamfield | February 26, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Well, golly: if the GOP says there are 9,000 earmarks in this pork-stuffed spend-a-thon then there must be 9,000 earmarks in the bill and it must be a pork-stuffed spend-a-thon because, by gosh, the GOP never exagerrates or tries to mislead the voters or uses hyperbole. Never.

And this kind of "validation by repetition" works really well on the weak-minded, like Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Mary Ann Akers.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | February 26, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

The point is: He campaigned, promised, no earmarks. If they are needed, bring them up on their own merits.

Posted by: linda_521 | February 26, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

The point is: He campaigned, promised, no earmarks. If they are needed, bring them up on their own merits.

Posted by: linda_521 | February 26, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

There is that "validation by repetition in action ! Linda_521 repeating her post.

Posted by: antiquepaper1 | February 26, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey Tom the seeds of "the destruction we must recover from" were planted long before Bush took office... and of course right to the old stand-by of anyone against this repugnant spending is a racist... how easy it must be for you to live your life... Please, whatever you do, do not step in front of a bus tomorrow... the rest of us may never recover without you leading the way and enlightening while you do...

Posted by: Scott27 | February 26, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

This is an unmitigated disaster. Obama's first year deficit is more than that spent in Bush's first 7 years.

The guy's not making any hard choices.

Posted by: tonynelson1 | February 26, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Listen here you JAs....

Validation by repitition is trying to be performed by you, the Democrats and Obama. Yet when they are called out on it, they are caught in lie, and will not admit it.
So Peter Tom and Margaret, the point of this article is that there are earmarks. If Obama says there are no earmarks in last week's bill and none in this week's omnibus, then his administration needs to define what he is calling earmarks. Because, with the current view of ear-marks these bills are littered with them and make the admin look like hypocrites.

But of course, if you want to continue to ignore it and be disillusioned that Obama is keeping his promises... go right ahead.

Posted by: alutz08 | February 26, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse


Consumers are reacting, and behavior is reversing to actions not seen since the ‘90s.

This bodes well for a gradual and shallow recovery.

Posted by: JamesRaider | February 26, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

So how many earmarks and how many people object?

Based on the title I expected a long list of people objecting. Two does not "constitute grief".

Posted by: rlj1 | February 26, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, right, Mary, hope you get the pulitzer for that one! You caught him trying to pass on a $7 million allocation for job training on an Indian Reservation with 70% unemployment. Who says investigative journalism is dead? Keep sniffing out that pork, girl!

Posted by: jrbarry63 | February 26, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

$7.7 million for Tribally Controlled Vocational System? Sounds like Job Training to me. For Native Americans, if the "Tribally Controlled" indicates anything. How dare that Obama try to help one of the most disenfranchised peoples the world has ever seen!

Hey, Dittoheads, there's a difference between earmark spending and infrastructure spending, but there's a thin line. An earmark might be $1.8 million for a deep-sea lobster camera, or $30 million for a bridge to an airport that sees at best three planes departing or leaving in a quarter. Spending on rebuilding the roads that are used constantly is not earmarking. Spending on fixing bridges which haven't had proper maintenance since, oh, I don't know, 2001? That's not earmarking either.

tonynelson1 - Get your head out of your ass. Bush took a $300 billion surplus (that means we were spending $300 billion less than we were taking in with Clinton) and ran with it to the bank. In his eight years in office, Bush doubled the deficit from $5 trillion to over $10 trillion. This $1.7 trillion deficit is composed of three primary factors: $700 billion in "rainy day" funds for banks if things continue to worsen, $632 billion in a downpayment on healthcare overall, our typical budgetary deficit, and part of the $800 billion stimulus package just passed. $1.2 trillion ($632 for healthcare, $700 in rainy-day) of it is guaranteed not to be on the budget next year (healthcare will have further payments, but this $630 billion is the brunt of it and we'll be seeing much smaller payments). Our deficit next year will be between $500 and $700 billion, mark my words.

Posted by: fauxsoup | February 26, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

It's only $7 million. That's pocket change!

The deceiver in chief is at it again. More empty rhetoric from the rhetorician extraordinaire.

The minds of the starry-eyed leftists have been numbed by the constant repetition of change, hopes, and dreams. The sheep just follow the master's voice.

Posted by: conservativemaverick | February 26, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey, the fun is just now starting. Have you heard oil prices are rising on news the Arabs are going to cut production. Where is Obama's energy plan. Does he have one? To the grim statistics we soon will add higher pump prices ($3.00 by this summer) to go long with the crushing effects of this recession. If this happens, what is the point of bailing out GM? Oh, I forgot, Obama has to take care of his union buddies.

Posted by: saelij | February 26, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Saelij we all know what W's energy plan was and where that got us...into a misguided war in Iraq, $4 a gallon gas prices, record profits for Exxon Mobil, the list goes on and on. Obama's energy plan has already begun--$150 billion over the next ten years for solar and wind development is a crucial part of it. Yes we will have to rely on big oil and nuclear for years to come....but the tide is turning at last.

Posted by: antiquepaper1 | February 26, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

What??? Obama is a fraud? Is anybody surprised?

Posted by: alstl | February 26, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Yes, because of course job training would be considered an earmark. Not to mention the fact it is helping out NATIVE Americans. I mean really, we gave them casinos, what more do they want? /sarcasm

Posted by: XanderB | February 26, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Yes we will have to rely on big oil and nuclear for years to come....but the tide is turning at last.

I would love to ask people where they think oil comes from. The GOP seems to act like it's some unlimited natural resource that constantly regenerates or something. News flash. It took millions of years for that "crude oil" to be created. Once it's gone, it's gone. So yes, Obama's plan for alternative energy sources is a good idea. Hell, you can power your home for free using solar panels, minus the cost of the panels, and yet you still give thousands to the electric company each year. Why is that?

Posted by: XanderB | February 26, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Ah, the Bushies are squealing.
The Washington Posters, complicit in supporting crony government and phony war, pay close attention to this kind of drivel, when they should be focusing on legitimate issues about this budget.

Posted by: hank6 | February 26, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.

$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$550 billion: U.S. Defense budget

Posted by: atsegga | February 26, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I am constantly amazed at how ignorant Obama supporters are -- and how anxious they are to show it.

Posted by: lweaton1 | February 26, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Well aren't you special lweaton1.

Posted by: antiquepaper1 | February 26, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

What? Obama only asked for $7.7M ? He must have been in a bad mood that day....

Posted by: dickhealy | February 26, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, you folks are okay with this spending? Really? Let's step back for a minute and please, please ignore party politics for a moment. No more name calling. Please, let's use some common sense for a single moment...

We were promised change. Obama campaigned on change. Obama won on change. We wanted something different. We wanted something better. Is this bloated spending bill our something better? It is government at its sleaziest and I expected Obama to take charge of this nonsensical "kitchen sink" spending in Congress and usher in a new era of responsible government. Instead, Congress is going on a spending spree the likes of which our country has never seen. Where is the leadership?

I don't begrudge job training. I don't begrudge bricks and mortar projects. But, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck - lets be honest about what a lot of this spending is littered with... earmarks, pork, pet projects, etc. Call it what you will but it is still politics as usual. I expected Obama to instruct Congress in the manner that he addressed the governors and hold them to a higher standard. That is change I can believe in.

Posted by: KayeT1 | February 27, 2009 1:37 AM | Report abuse

for the chance
and samehing like a great thing as Education (Learnig Knowledge)for the purpose of serwiwal of the induvidual as well as the society is one. that is the final aim of education.

think. if learnig knowledge became a bussines and it is thir now. can you say what is going on now only a bussiness before going to such un nessassay mater.

I will like to say ,Knowledge is not meant to sail on shops for the pur pose of surwaival of the induvidual but meant to the surwaival of the entair creation of the creator of the universe.

can you say how,This bussiness started I will tell you, befor that I have to do soe thng for my surwaival till then . see you

Posted by: silpisivaAjantha | February 27, 2009 4:31 AM | Report abuse

Turning a Senator's funding request into an earmark was not done by the now President Obama. Of course John Boehner and Mike "The Magic Negro" Steele, are looking for anything to make themselve appear intelligent.

The truth is the Republican is only interested in the richest three percent of the population, and that is less than one percent of the Republican Party. All efforts are for that one percent, the other ninety-nine percent do not matter, but that is "The Magic"

Focus. The Republican Party out of power for just thirty days, the party's policies have caused massive layoff's, massive losses on the Stock market, and have caused the biggest default/foreclosure event in banking history, and they want to be heard. I hear you loud and clear!


Posted by: patmatthews | February 27, 2009 5:48 AM | Report abuse

Change? What a joke.

Posted by: dricha8548 | February 27, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Earmarks are important for good government. Why? Because the budget is prepared by the adminitration. Then congress adapts it because it is closer to the people. The people tell congress their priorities - congress considers them then modify the proposed budget accordingly. Hence earmarks! Then hearings, discussions, meetings, agreement! Then the budget is passed.

To ban earmarks is ridiculous. Our government has never been without earmarks.

If by earmarks one means bribes or quid pro quo arrangments - then the earmarks become borderline and possibly illegal. There have been too many of them.

What we need is precision of language when we discuss "earmarks."

Posted by: sedlakjf | February 27, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

For those banking on solar/wind to free us from our oil dependency, how do you expect that to work? We use oil mostly for our cars' engines, not our electricity. Solar panels and wind can't power a car (and never will). Oil makes up less than 3% of our electricity (

As you can see from the link, coal provides 50% of our electricity with natural gas and nuclear providing ~20% each. We have plenty of each of those and once coal and natural gas run out, we can switch over to nuclear (yes, it's evil I know). For our cars, we need to fund electricity storage technology (i.e. batteries) or fuel cells.

Posted by: owiee | February 27, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Don't you get it? Obama's EARs are a mark....

Posted by: poptoy1949 | February 27, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

According to the remaining few Republicans left in office, anything not a tax cut for the very wealthy is now an earmark. Yet they voted for more earmarks during their reign of power than any previous congress. The republican party holds the record for wasteful earmark spending and the Democrates will never, ever match their zeal for waste and fraud. 9,000 earmarks? Where? Its another BIG lie.

Posted by: whitneykyle | February 27, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

The President's spine is so weak I'm surprised he is not walking on crutches.

We voted for CHANGE, what we got was boondoogled. Now he is just one of the pols.
Same old, same old.

I predict he will sign the bill and then give some flimsy excuse.

Posted by: redhotpapasan | February 27, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

A $7 million earmark - that's what you found in a multi-trillion dollar spending bill? And you are reporting on it? Boy those media layoffs have cut really deep haven't they?

This is the U.S. government folks - there will always be earmarks. There will always be some wasteful spending. Bush Republicans destroyed the America I grew up in, trashed our environment, financial system, foreign policy credentials, the list goes on. All of us, and our children's children, will pay a huge price for it.

Let the conservatives scream all they want. Their time is past. President Obama is trying to dig us out of the mess they made. Give him a chance.

Posted by: mitch16 | February 27, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

You Republicans are such poor losers, elections have consequences, you lost we won, so just shut up, no one listens to your BS any longer. You have proven that your not capable to govern, your in the pocket of big business, and the ultra rich. American is done with your ilk! Your party is over for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: kburnett1 | February 27, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Dont you just love it when people re-write the history books?

What else have they erased in Obamas history?

Posted by: indep2 | February 27, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Once again Obama changed his stance and blamed Bush. Obama,s name was on the earmark, found it unpopular, then provided spin to blame Bush. How much longer is this going to be the tactic of his administration. It's beginning to bore us.

Posted by: SouthernCross2 | February 27, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Orwell is grinning from ear to ear. He thought he was writing a futuristic fantasy when he described a government office dedicated to rewriting history. In reality, he must have been channeling a futuristic obama.

Posted by: segeny | February 27, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: RICHDIET1 | February 27, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

wow 7 million Senator Graham has 183 million in earmarks for SC Illinois got ripped off, I wonder how much Sarah got for Alaska? The Omnibus bill is not the stimulus package either......I still prefer the Obama Administration over the Bush Administration any day and as a disabled veteran I am really pleased to see the FY2010 budget a 5 billion increase over President Bush who "loved" the troops supposedly kept trying to reduce VA spending

Posted by: mikey30919 | February 27, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Next spending bill, pull all earmarks from GOP districts. Every last one of them. They don't want them, so let them live the rhetoric. Since they are not going to vote for them, why give them to them? See that Cantor's district is first at zero Fed dollars spent.

Posted by: mischanova | March 2, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

What isn't mentioned, is the top three, biggest priced "earmarks" in Obamas budget, come from Republican Senators, the top six in ten also come from Republican Senators... just forty Republican Senators have submitted "earmarks" with a total price tag almost equal to all fifty-nine Democratic Senators "earmarks"....what a (hypocritical) "convenient" way for Republicans to "get their cake and eat it, too!" Who's the hypocrite now...McCain? (McCain signs onto all those "other" Republican earmarks)

Posted by: susannelsen | March 4, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

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