Politico attributed 2006 earmark drop to GOP Congress, ignored its failure to pass spending bills that year

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

A Politico article suggested that the Republican-led 109th Congress was responsible for a decrease in the number of earmarks approved in 2006 (for the 2007 fiscal year) relative to previous years. But the article did not mention that following the Democratic victories in the 2006 midterm elections, the GOP leadership declined to pass nine of 11 annual appropriations bills and that in order to fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal 2007, Democrats placed a one-time moratorium on earmarks.

A November 12 Politico article headlined "Senate GOP leaders target earmarks" reported that Congress passed comparatively fewer earmarks, or special-interest provisions, in 2006 (for the 2007 fiscal year) than in previous years and suggested that the Republican-led 109th Congress was responsible for this decrease. But the article did not mention that following the Democratic victories in the 2006 midterm elections, the GOP leadership declined to pass nine of 11 annual appropriations bills and that in order to fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal 2007, Democrats placed a one-time moratorium on earmarks, after taking control of the House and Senate in January.

From the Politico article:

The number of earmarks swelled from 546 projects worth $3.1 billion in 1991 to almost 14,000 projects worth $27 billion in 2005, according to Citizens Against Government Waste in Washington, an early pioneer in providing data on special-interest projects.

The figures dropped last year to 2,658 projects worth $13 billion.

But by then, the political damage was done. Voters reacted to earmarks-for-contributions scandals and headlines about bloated Washington spending by giving Democrats control of Congress.

Despite attributing its figures on earmarks to the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), the Politico article ignored the fact that CAGW assigned credit for the comparatively low number of earmarks passed during 2006 to Congress' failure to pass the nine appropriations bills in 2006 and the Democrats' subsequent moratorium. From the summary of CAGW's "2007 Congressional Pig Book":

This year's Pig Book breaks a run of seven consecutive years of record dollar amounts of pork, culminating in $29 billion in the 2006 Congressional Pig Book. This lesser barrel of pork can be attributed to the efforts of Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who prevented the enactment of nine appropriations bills in December, 2006, and the subsequent moratorium on earmarks announced and enforced by the House and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairmen David Obey (D-Wis.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) in H. J. Res. 20, the bill that funds the government for the remainder of fiscal 2007.

A November 20, 2006, Associated Press article reported that many Republicans believed the unfinished budget work for fiscal 2007 would impede the incoming Democratic majority's agenda:

Republicans vacating the Capitol are dumping a big spring cleaning job on Democrats moving in. GOP leaders have opted to leave behind almost a half-trillion-dollar clutter of unfinished spending bills.

[...]

Driving the decision to quit and go home rather than finish the remaining budget work is a determined effort by a group of conservative Republicans to prevent putting a GOP stamp on spending bills covering 13 Cabinet Departments -- and loaded with thousands of homestate projects derided as "pork" by critics.

[...]

Some Republicans also look forward to using unfinished budget work to gum up an early Democratic agenda that includes raising the minimum wage, negotiating lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, cutting interest rates on college loans and repealing some tax breaks for oil companies.

"Other stuff may get pushed off the table," said GOP lobbyist Hazen Marshall, a former longtime Capitol Hill aide. "It kills (Democrats') message."

A January 31 Washington Post article reported that when Congress convened in January 2007, House and Senate Democratic leaders formulated "a $463 billion spending plan for the remainder of the fiscal year" that was "stripped ... of all earmarks, or narrow, special-interest provisions":

House and Senate Democratic leaders agreed yesterday to a $463 billion spending plan for the remainder of the fiscal year that would freeze many federal agencies at 2006 levels but include more money for veterans' health, education, scientific research, HIV programs and public parks, among other things.

In an unusual move, the congressional leaders stripped the spending bill of all earmarks, or narrow, special-interest provisions. The measure had to be cobbled together now because Congress did not finish its work last year and failed to pass nine of 11 spending bills.

Four months into the current fiscal year, the federal government has been running on a temporary budget that is set to expire Feb. 15. The House is scheduled to vote on the spending package today, while the Senate will take it up in the coming weeks.

[...]

Republicans grumbled about the fact that Democrats in the House will not allow amendments to the budget and said the party in power plans to ram through a spending bill without committee hearings or meaningful debate. Democrats said that they have no choice, because the previous Congress left the budget process in such disarray that they are under great pressure to quickly pass a spending bill for the remaining eight months.

The Post article quoted Richard Kogan of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities saying of the congressional Democratic leaders, "They really delivered on their promise to wipe out earmarks."

Posted In
Economy, Budget
Network/Outlet
The Politico
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