The House will consider a new rule tomorrow that will make earmarking a much more transparent process. The rule (found here at the Rules Committee homepage) would require that all bills, coming from all Committees, must list each and every earmark including the member’s name making the request. This will apply to all legislation and will also apply to all committee reports and conference committee reports. Tim Chapman notes that the vote will be close tomorrow and that appropriators "(of course) have problems with the legislation." Hopefully the online effort that helped make earmarking and transparency an issue that Congressional leadership must address (see: Coburn-Obama) will help push this one over the finish line.
House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, explains the importance of this reform at Red State,
"It’s common sense: if you request a project, you ought to be willing to put your name on it and defend it. And if you aren’t willing to put your name on a project, you shouldn’t expect the American people to pay for it.
The new rules will bring earmarking out of the shadows and into the light of public scrutiny. They will bring sunshine and transparency into the earmarking process, resulting in greater accountability from legislators and greater public confidence in how tax dollars are being spent."
Boehner also notes that the rule will be enforced on the current 2007 Labor-HHS Appropriations legislation that is at the center of Sunlight’s collaborative effort to expose earmarks.
Mark Tapscott makes an important point about whether this applies to the Senate as well, "it is true this is just a House rule, but since all appropriations bills must originate in the House under the Constitution and the House has to approve all conference reports, this rule would effectively include the Senate."
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., plans to offer an amendment to the rule (although rules are not normally open to amendments) that would "members from personally benefiting from an earmark or bestowing favors to friends." CongressDaily notes that Emanuel is likely trying to "make the debate uncomfortable for Republicans," who have a number of members with records of dishing out earmarks that have benefitted their interests or the interests of friends. This does, however, cut both ways as Democrats have the controversies surrounding Rep. Alan Mollohan’s, D-W.Va., earmarking. Since amendments are not normal in the consideration of a rule Emanuel (who is proposing the amendment with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Va.) should be allowed to bring his rule to the floor for a vote as well.
After tomorrow’s vote everyone will be able to see where members of Congress stand on transparency and earmarking. Are they for a "Closed Door" Congress or are they for an accountable Congress?