Advocating on Behalf of the American Military and Defense on the War on Terror

Earmarks...A Phony Issue?

Yes.  If they define an earmark as an appropriation without authorization.


In my 22 years in Congress, this is the first time I can recall disagreeing with the Heritage Foundation on a major issue.  In a recent report by the Heritage Foundation on earmarks, Dr. Ronald Utt states that earmark reform will restore budget discipline.  However, his own WebMemo states, “If earmarks were eliminated in next year's budget and total spending were adjusted accordingly, the one-year savings would be greater than that expected from the President's proposed freeze, which is estimated to save only $15 billion in the first year” (emphasis added).  That is a big “and”. 

Recent reports by The Hill (Lobbyists hitting up federal agencies as earmark rate drops on 02/04/2010) and National Journal (Earmarks Are A Model, Not A Menace on 03/14/2009) have shown this not to be the case.  As The Hill article states, “Some lobbyists are spending less time stalking members of Congress and more time reaching out to government bureaucrats as federal agencies regain some lost authority over spending.”

As with Heritage, other conservative organizations who oppose earmarks and Congressional action, argue that the expertise on directed federal funding lies exclusively in the Executive Branch.  Expertise is also contained at the Congressional levels with both Members and Committee staff.  As the National Journal article points out, “Some earmark spending is silly, but then so is some non-earmark spending, and there is a lot more of the latter…. Indeed, executive agencies could stand to emulate some of the online disclosure rules that apply to [Congressional] earmarks.”  The National Journal article further points out that the Executive Branch spending is not apolitical or simply merit-based. 

Eight years ago when I declared that the concept that global warming was caused by anthropogenic gasses was "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," I was all alone. And I was alone for the next 6 years.


Of course, the biggest fan of cap and trade of the Republicans was John McCain. Even Newt Gingrich joined Nancy Pelosi in opposing me on the issue. But you, Human Events, supported me all the way through. And, by the way, we won.


I only mention this so that your readers will hear me out in what I am about to say about perhaps the most misunderstood issue in conservative thought, "earmarks." And keep in mind this is coming from one who has been honored by being Human Events Man of the Year and ranked #1 by ACU.


Our Constitution makes it clear that we have 3 co equal branches of government and Article 1 defines the legislative branch. Section 9 gives the legislative branch the power and obligation to authorize and appropriate funds.


The idea of our founders was that the elected representatives from the respective states know more about the state's needs than the central government. There are many things that are authorized and appropriated that should be defeated, and we can vote against them. But we defeat them based on the substance, not simply because they are "earmarks."


Here's the catch. When a member successfully opposes another member's earmark request it does not save a dime. It merely kills the request and sends the money to the Executive Branch, in this case President Obama. So when the Senate Republicans came out with the one year moratorium on earmarks Obama rejoiced.


In addition, the "earmark" issue gives cover to big spenders in Congress. Democrats AND Republicans who vote for the $100 billion bills rail against "earmarks" on the floor to sound fiscally conservative.


Lastly, this the first time in my career that republicans are solidly behind the four big issues that the vast majority of Americans agree with: reduce deficits, stop cap and trade, kill government run health care and keep GTMO open.


With that arsenal, who needs the phony issue of "earmarks”?


The solution is to define an "earmark" as "an appropriation that has not been authorized." The fight between authorizers and appropriators has been going on for 200 years.


One of my committees, the Senate Armed Services Committee is an authorizer. It evaluates all the platforms to defend America. It is staffed with experts in missile defense, strike vehicles and all the technical areas. Based on that expertise, it authorizes defense funds, which means our committee sets spending priorities.  However, for the funds to actually be spent, they must go through the second phase of being appropriated. 


The abuses take place when appropriators swap out deals on the floor that have not been authorized.


So forget about the disingenuous "earmark" issue and stick with the 4 real issues above.  Those issues will give us a Republican majority in November.