Earmarks: The Empire strikes back Posted by: mcq
on Thursday, February 16, 2006
After all the rhetoric about getting serious about earmarks specifically and pork in general, the primary resistance in the House to reforming earmarks is coming, unsurprisingly, from big-government Republicans:
The push to end earmarks, which critics call pork-barrel spending, is bogged down in the House, thanks to a strong defense of the practice from top Republicans.
Rep. Jerry Lewis, California Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, used for missile attacks on terrorist lairs, is a shining example of the best of earmarks.
He said the Predator proved its success in Bosnia after he stuck an earmark into a spending bill in the mid-1990s, long before the war on terror.
"We pushed funding by way of an earmark that moved [research and development] way ahead — two, three years ahead," Mr. Lewis said. "There's little doubt Predator would never have been in Bosnia if we hadn't done that."
Other leaders defend the practice by saying it's how they are judged at home.
"The Buffalo News, which is my hometown newspaper, still believes I ought to bring home the bacon," said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Let's deal with Rep. Lewis' defense of earmarks. He claims that the armed Predator drone is a "shining example" of earmarks at their best.
Among over 15,000 which don't qualify as "shining examples" it becomes an apt description of a blind pig finding an acorn. But it certainly doesn't qualify as a reasonable defense of earmarks. If there's a problem with the appropriations process which prevents fast-tracking something which, of necessity, should be fast-tracked, then fix the process to allow for that. But it should still be accountable, transparant and debatable. And it should also be "defeatable", i.e. somewhere in the process subject to an up or down vote.
Earmarks stuffed into conference reports, as we've learned, are unamendable. That's no longer acceptable.
Another point about Lewis and about House leadership in general ... they're non-responsive to the problem. Why isn't Hastart leading the charge? Why is Lewis using an exception as a defense of the indefensible?
And Reynolds of NY? Since when did he begin to let the press define his job? At least, by using the term "bacon" he acknowledges what he's about. I'm sure it was nothing more than an unconscious slip of the tongue.
The bottom line remains fixed despite all the reformist rhetoric we've heard: the Republicans in the House still see it as some sort of a right to stuff earmarks in bills in order to help them maintain power.
Republicans and Democrats in both chambers defend earmarks as an appropriate exercise of the power of the purse.
It reminds me of the Tom DeLay quote in which he apprised us all that there just wasn't any more fat which could be trimmed from the budget.
So settle in for the long and drawn-out fight to change the culture in Washington and separate the pigs from the trough.
As for Rep. Lewis' version of the Predator's funding, Rep. Jeff Flake takes exception to it:
Mr. Flake, though, said that for every Predator are dozens of projects like the "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska, which became the pork poster project in his challenges to the highway bill.
He challenged Mr. Lewis' version of how the Predator was funded, saying the Predator was a Defense Department request and that the House and Senate were debating over how much to fund it.
"This is the antithesis of what they are trying to defend. This thing was debated," he said.
Keeping up the pressure and highlighting the paucity of reasonable argument for earmarks is one way we can help put Congress on a pork-free diet.
The Buffalo News, which is my hometown newspaper, still believes I ought to bring home the bacon," said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee
He does have a point doesn’t he? I’m sure the Buffalo News and the people of his district are against pork-earmarking in theory but in practice, god help Rep. Reynolds re-election chances if his district gets less.
The GOP will have problems in Nov. I said here a month ago that if they elected one of the 2 liberals (which they did) voters would not be pleased based on the 33% who voted for a liberal Republican for *re*election in 1992. Their liberal selection seems to point to a continuing liberal approach to government. Reminds me of the President’s SOTU speech, "the answer to all our problems is more government medling and less personal responsibility". I sumarized his long speech here into one sentence. He said much more than that but this is the essence of his speech and of the GOP the last 5 years. The party of Ronnie has turned itself into the party of LBJ.
The disingenuous, liberal wing of the GOP is in complete control. If the election of one of the liberals last month did not convince you this should do the job. The Republicans of the 21 century are the Democrats of the late 20 century. It is Animal Farm in real life here in America. The thing that makes me mad is they think that when they lie to me and say "we’re conservative" that I can not do second grade math! How can anyone trust such liars?
mcq, Thanks for keeping the earmarking process in the limelight. Even at it’s best, this process leaves much to be desired.
If the Predator was worthy of funding, and in hindsight we can say yes, then why couldn’t it be approved on it’s own merits? If there is a flaw in the legislative process, earmarking is not a solution, but a way around the process.
Based on this kind of logic, why don’t we just declare war on all the nations on Earth? And if only a few of them actually needed to be taken over, well that justifies the whole thing, doesn’t it?
In his justification of pork, Rep. Jerry Lewis is sounding more like comedian Jerry Lewis.
This is a totally not thought through idea I just had so take it with a grain of salt.
Could the level of partisan visciousness be to some extent caused by both parties being under the control of their "big meddlesome government" wings? Specifically, since both sides are trying to get the government to "enforce" cultural standards on each other, both sides feel that the other is trying to turn the government "against them" and control their lives.
Jerry Lewis is an old pro at collecting huge amounts of steady doantions directly from those who get large grants and contracts. He doesn’t need lobbists to raise millions. He also never spends any on what could be considered a real campaign expense. He has never pai for any local district advertising. Billboards are bought for him.
Most All of his and large family personal bills appear to be paid out of campaign funds. His wife is the highest paid Federal Employee in the CR’s offices (110,000 salary plus) And , she is not paid out of Lewis’s budget. Nor, does she really direct his offices. Lewis’ often brags how he never carries any cash for he "never has to pay for anything"
His Wash D.C. and area restauant billing in 2003 was in excess of $300,000. His home delivered pitza bill exceeded $8,000 in 2003. He gave over $150,000 to other Repulican encumbants and over $100,000 to the Republican party in 2003.
His stepdaugther works for his Redlands office full time as does his four sons and his wife’s other two children. His office is staffed with interns and miliary officers - and not on his payroll. His combined known real estate holdings are filed in fictiious names - and so on - I have researched his records for the past ten years.He has been my CR since 1992 and he never did much for the district that didn’t involve construction contractors. His father was the CEO of one of the largest for many years.
His brother’s cancer bill of more than $300,000 was excused by a private medical center that Lewis helped get almost a billion in the past ten years for earthquake prevention and a special cancer research center (no money every spent to prevent earthquake damage and there is no separate cancer center). He is also proud of being a board member of the same hospital for many years.
He also claims to have had a thirty year sucessful life insurance agency. It’s not hard to sell when you have "Interested" prospects.
He is a very wealthy man but not according to annual filings and the IRS.