I'm a Pundit Too

Monday, June 18, 2007

OBEY LOST - TAXPAYERS WON!

For Immediate Release June 15, 2007
Contact: Leslie K. Paige 202-467-5334
Alexa Moutevelis 202-467-5318

Washington, D.C. -
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today claimed victory in a fight for earmark transparency in the House. After a wave of protest from across the political spectrum, Democrats finally backed down from plans to keep taxpayers in the dark about tens of billions of dollars in congressionally-earmarked spending items until the bills were in the House-Senate conference. Earmarks will now be included in appropriations bills and subject to debate and amendment.

"Democrats promised real earmark reform, but then took the first opportunity they could to find a loophole and get back to pork-barrel business as usual," said CAGW President Tom Schatz. "The American people are sick and tired of the bait and switch from Congress, especially when it comes to their tax dollars."

In May, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.) announced plans to keep earmarks secret until closed-door conference committee meetings between the House and Senate to reconcile spending bills, which typically take place in September. Rep. Obey planned to report the bills out of committee "earmark free," but intended to include funding increases in order to have the extra money to pay for earmarks that would be inserted later. The Chairman announced that he and his staff would vet these earmarks themselves to determine their suitability for funding in the final bill, making them "judge and jury" for billions of dollars in such projects.

While Rep. Obey promised the earmark lists would finally be made available for viewing in August, before the conference committees, the resulting conference reports themselves are not subject to amendment, leaving no opportunity to challenge or strike any individual pork project.

Chairman Obey's scheme flouted the spirit of new House rules, which call for earmarks to be provided in appropriations bills and which would allow them to be challenged on the floor of the House. Republicans, and particularly Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a stalwart opponent of the recent earmark bonanzas, took a stand and protested Obey's plan by bringing House proceedings to a grinding halt. Democrats also felt the heat from the media, their constituents, bloggers, and taxpayer watchdog groups like CAGW. The outrage, which showed no sign of abatement, along with the Republicans' commitment to throwing up endless procedural roadblocks, finally forced the House Democratic leadership to agree to list earmarks with the bills.

"Chairman Obey wanted to stay behind closed doors and play 'God' with earmarks, but the taxpayers won this battle for transparency and accountability," concluded Schatz.

Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government.

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