Congressional Quarterly reports that a small group of Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee are working to reform how earmarks are decided upon. And little wonder, appropriators of both houses have recently been caught red handed abusing them. Seven of the 29 Republicans on the committee are meeting on a weekly basis in an attempt to come up with a reform that appropriators can agree to. One idea they?ve discussed is requiring that both the chairman and the ranking minority member approve all earmarks. The CQ article also lists several other ad hoc groups of lawmakers in both chambers that are looking to further reform the earmark process.
One plan sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey would cap appropriations earmarks and divide the dollars equally among members of the House and Senate. Besides the GOP, members of the Congressional Black Caucus are looking to reform how earmark dollars are spread around in light of a CQ report that showed a large disparity depending on the race of the lawmaker. Republicans are also advocating more transparency in how earmarks are handled. Here, here to that!Continue reading
We think the USA Today editorialists have got it right: the new ethics laws haven't meant the end to the perks or ways for lobbyists to curry favor with lawmakers. We never really expected it to (I mean, we weren't exactly born yesterday...). You can't legislate good behavior. And that's why Sunlight's work urging full transparency for the work of Congress and its members is so hugely important.
Today's edition also includes an opposing view op-ed from Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid where he attempts to make the case that he and his fellow Democrats have delivered on their promise to end the status quo environment of corruption in Congress. Watchdog journalists have shown how lawmakers and lobbyists have conspired to get around travel restrictions and gift bans. Plus, when the Senate passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, the practice of earmark abuse was preserved by a slight of hand by Sen. Reid and his fellow senators, putting anonymity back in the process.Continue reading
Looks like our colleagues over at Taxpayers for Common Sense are getting fed up about earmarks. In the case of Rep. Don Young’s $10 million earmark to benefit a Florida political contributor, they have filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee. TCS raises the question over how the earmark found its way onto the 2005 transportation bill after it had passed both houses of Congress.Continue reading
This is a pretty depressing article, if like Sunlight and Taxpayers for Common Sense you think transparency is a good thing when it comes to earmarks. It shows just how tough our job is, and just how crafty members of Congress are. No great surprise on either end, but still...Continue reading
Taxpayers for Common Sense, a grantee of the Sunlight Foundation, last week released the first of two reports on what can only be described as the good, the bad, and the ugly of earmark reform. Their first analysis gives a roundup of what actions the House took and didn't take.
TCS gives credit to the House for the volume of information now available but takes the House to task for the way it has provided it. The data dumps allowed TCS to get its its excellent databases up before the final vote on almost every bill but frankly they had to work too hard to do it. I mean, if the House and Senate are going to provide this infomation why not just do it in a database form themselves? Why do nonprofits have to take raw data and put the data in a form so real people can actually use it?Continue reading
Over at Porkbusters, N.Z. Bear relays the latest word on the shape that earmark reforms will take in the new lobbying bill, and offers readers a chance to check for themselves. Rather than clutter the home page up with a million updates, I'll take a closer look myself over on RealTime...Continue reading
Robert Novak suggests in a column today one subject in divided Washington that gets bipartisan support:
[Sen. Harry] Reid is also working behind the scenes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to undermine earmark transparency and prevent open debate on spending proposals... ...Reid is plotting to strip anti-earmark transparency from the final version of ethics legislation passed by the Senate and House, with tacit support from Republican senators and the GOP leadership.I'm shocked. Also not surprised. Interestingly, Novak reports that the issue that's rankling lawmakers is a provision that would "bar earmarks benefiting a senator's family members." Continue reading
Earlier this week (Tuesday, to be exact), Sen. James DeMint made a pretty good argument on the Senate floor as to why earmarks should be transparent. He also plugged the efforts of bloggers who've been all over this issue, including Sunlight. See for yourself:Continue reading
After taking over Congress last January, House Democrats passed a House rule, all by themselves, that required disclosure of earmarks. We have an analysis of the House rule here; of course, there were bumps in the road implementing it, but we're starting to see an unprecedented amount of earmark disclosure from the House. The Senate, by contrast, put its earmark disclosure measures in a bill, S. 1,, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act, meaning that, until the House and President sign off on it, the Senate effectively operates under the old, nondisclosure rules (although Sen. Robert Byrd, the chairman of the Senate Appropiations Committee, has adopted his own rules; you can see here and here how Byrd's rule is working.Continue reading
In The Examiner Rep. John Boehner, the Republican House leader, declares victory in the effort to have earmarks disclosed earlier in the process.
As part of the deal completed after extensive negotiations that ended late today, Republicans agreed to allow two appropriations bills (Homeland Security and Military Quality of Life) – bills that include few or no earmarks – to move forward immediately. All 10 remaining appropriations bills will come to the floor later with their earmarks fully disclosed and subject to challenge by any lawmaker...Continue reading