Speaking of earmarks, Democrats are having their own problems cleaning up bad spending habits, and that's after only a few days in power. Yesterday on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid was caught pulling out every stop to kill his own party's plan for earmark reform.Not surprising really, from "Dirty Harry" Reid. After all, he is likely to make a nice bundle from that new bridge between Laughlin, Nevada and Bull Head City, Arizona running right by his property. But realistically, the legislation should be expanded to include kids, and not just spouses, as he has apparently made his four boys rich too.
To Speaker Nancy Pelosi's credit, House Democrats recently passed ethics legislation that included provisions making earmarks more transparent. The House bill included a broad definition of earmarks, thereby making it harder to hide them in, say, last-minute conference reports. It also requires Members to file a public disclosure form when they request an earmark, and to state that neither they nor their spouses will financially benefit. It's hard to argue that this is anything but elementary good government.
Unless you are Harry Reid. The ethics reform offered by Senate Democrats contained none of these tougher earmark provisions. So Senate Republicans, led by South Carolina's Jim DeMint, cheekily took the identical language of the House earmark bill and offered it as an amendment to the Senate version. Numerous Democrats instantly denounced it, apparently unaware (or unconcerned) that the language had been sponsored by Ms. Pelosi.
Democrat Dick Durbin then moved to table the amendment, though he lost by 51 to 46. Of the 46 Senators who voted to banish Ms. Pelosi's reform, 38 of them were her fellow Democrats. The seven Republicans who went along with Mr. Reid included some of the GOP's biggest spenders (Trent Lott) and Members of the Appropriations Committee, aka Earmark Central Station. When Senator DeMint then moved to have his amendment accepted by voice vote -- which is customary -- Mr. Durbin objected. The effect of these procedural run-arounds was to give Mr. Reid more time to twist a few more Democratic arms into killing earmark reform.
By our deadline last night, he still hadn't succeeded, though Senate sources told us that Mr. Reid was considering filing for cloture on the entire ethics bill, thereby foreclosing a vote on the current DeMint amendment. If he prevails, voters will know just much "fiscal discipline" to expect from the new majority.
Friday, January 12, 2007
I rarely comment on Congressional earmarks, mostly because they are so depressing. Somehow the ultimate example of Milton Friedman describing politicians as bribing us with our own money to be reelected. Nevertheless, this WSJ article: Earmark Entertainment is quite humorous: