Souder’s Shopping List

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Sylvia A. Smith, the Washington editor of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, emails to say that Rep. Mark Souder voluntarily discloses to the paper a list of his earmarks, and sends this fine story along to prove it. I found these paragraphs especially interesting:

Souder wants $159.5 million for projects small ($25,000 apiece for two county programs to include residents’ irises in a national identification data bank) and large ($31.5 million for equipment to train Indiana Air National Guard pilots).

The requests are among thousands that the 435 members of the House submitted this week to the subcommittees that allocate the portion of the federal budget that’s not already spoken for. Mandatory spending for areas such as Medicare and farm subsidies takes up about two-thirds of the federal budget.

Traditionally, members of Congress ask that the budget include specific allocations – called earmarks or pork-barrel spending – for projects in their districts or states. The practice has come under increasing criticism as the number of requests has multiplied and as the federal deficit expanded.

Earlier this week, President Bush asked Congress to give him the power to remove individual earmarks from a spending bill without having to veto an entire bill. Congress passed legislation in 1996 to give the president that authority, but the Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional.

Bush’s version would require the president to send one or more items back to Congress as a package for a vote.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, submitted earmark requests, but his office refused to make them public. Pence has strongly criticized over-spending by the federal government and has linked lobbying scandals to the earmark process.

His spokesman said Pence turned in “meritorious appropriation requests … based on requests from leaders in cities, towns and educational institutions in the district. It has not ever been our policy to release our requests.”

Rep. Dan Burton, R-5th, did not respond to a request about the spending requests.

A list of earmarks disclosed by Souder’s office follows.

Given a choice between no disclosure at all and voluntary disclosure, obviously the latter is preferable, but I don’t think it’s a substitute a statutory requirement that the sponsors of earmarks–like the sponsors of legislation or amendments–be included in bills. We are not peasants who need only be informed of what our lords deem appropriate, but rather their employers with the right and responsibility to supervise them.

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