OMB to continue tracking earmarks


They’ve got a release on it here. I can’t tell for sure from the memo, but it looks like Office of Management and Budget intends to track them in both House and Senate bills as they’re reported out of committee, as they’re voted on, and in conference reports as soon as they come out:

Agencies should report to OMB the number and dollar value of earmarks in each account within seven days after an appropriations bill is reported by the House or Senate Appropriations committee or passes the House or Senate Floor. In addition, agencies should provide a PDF of the relevant language for each earmark, or a PDF of a spreadsheet listing each earmark in lieu of the relevant language, which may be made available to the public. For Conference committee reports, which are often considered quickly, agencies should expedite their analysis and provide it as soon as possible, but also within no more than seven days. Providing this information as rapidly as possible will enable us to monitor progress relative to the President’s goal.

Kevin Bogardus had more on this in The Hill on Thursday, and, via Memeorandum, I see that Brian Faughanan on the Weekly Standard blog raises questions about “phonemarks” — earmarks that do not appear in appropriations bills or conference reports. Instead, lawmakers phone or email or otherwise contact federal agencies and [understatement] pleasantly request [/end understatement] funding for their pet projects. The Washington Post’s John Solomon and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum took an in-depth look at the practice last week.

OMB issued a memorandum on February 15, 2007, aimed at the practice (it seems to ban it). In early April (I think–I can’t check the date remotely), Anu and I took part in a conference call with some OMB officials that was arranged by some folks at the Heritage Foundation I asked whether OMB’s earmark reporting would catch phone marks — they referred to the Feb. 15 instructions and also seemed fairly confident that agencies would either follow those instructions and not honor phonemarks, or report them along with the other earmarks. I’ll call OMB Monday and see what they have to say.

Update: The Associated Press is reporting that House Democrats are going to keep their earmarks up their sleeves until the last possible minute (which would seemingly render the above effort by OMB moot):

Democrats are sidestepping rules approved their first day in power in January to clearly identify “earmarks” – lawmakers’ requests for specific projects and contracts for their states.

Rather than including specific pet projects, grants and contracts in legislation as it is being written, Democrats are following an order by the House Appropriations Committee chairman to keep the bills free of such earmarks until it is too late for critics to effectively challenge them.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., says those requests for dams, community grants and research contracts for favored universities or hospitals will be added to spending measures in the fall. That is when House and Senate negotiators assemble final bills.

Such requests total billions of dollars.

As a result, most lawmakers will not get a chance to oppose specific projects as wasteful or questionable when the spending bills for various agencies get their first votes in the full House in June.

I’m shocked. Also not surprised…