In tonight’s State of the Union address, President George W. Bush reportedly will announce that he will issue an executive order telling federal agencies to ignore earmarks unless they are part of future appropriations bills. Earmarks now are specified in the committee reports that accompany, but are distinct from, the legislation. Here’s a bit from a White House flier (attached) announcing the new policy:
The Executive Order will provide that with regard to all future appropriations laws and other legislation enacted into law, executive agencies will not commit, obligate, or expend funds on the basis of earmarks from any non-statutory source, including requests included in congressional committee reports or other congressional documents, or communications from or on behalf of Members of Congress, or any other non-statutory source, except when required by law, or when an agency itself decides that a project or other transaction has merit under statutory criteria or other merit-based decision-making.
That last “or when…” raises one question for federal agency heads: Does the decision to fund each and every earmark in a committee report in order to avoid the wraith of outraged Appropriations Committee members who control your budget fall under statutory criteria or other merit-based decision-making?