Now it's time for the next step. In dropping their plans for slush funds for secret earmarks, the Democrats agreed to require disclosure and debate on earmarks in appropriations bills. But this fix did not apply to tax and authorizing bills, which have historically been vehicles for some of the most indefensible earmarks churned out by Congress.
An authorizing bill was recently the vehicle for an illegitimate earmark requested by Rep. John Murtha (D., Pa.) that shifted $23 million in taxpayer funds to the so-called National Drug Intelligence Center -- a facility located in Mr. Murtha's district that was declared "expensive and duplicative" by independent government analysts. The Democrats' bill to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program was loaded up with millions in hospital earmarks that were never debated and never subject to challenge on the House floor.
Under the procedures of the current House leadership, members still cannot force a debate or vote on any earmark in any non-appropriations bill that comes to the floor. This flawed system is ripe for abuse. It steps backward from the reforms Republicans implemented last year and makes a mockery of Democrats' promise to run a more transparent and accountable Congress.
On June 12, I and other GOP leaders introduced legislation that would fully restore our reforms and require all earmarks in all types of bills -- tax, appropriations, or authorizing -- to be publicly disclosed and subject to challenge and open debate on the floor.
Since then I've repeatedly asked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to work with us to correct this loophole, but there has been no action. Left with no other option, I filed a discharge petition in the House to force a vote on our reforms. Once this petition receives 218 member signatures, House rules require the majority to bring it to the House floor for an up-or-down vote.
House Republicans are returning to the fiscally conservative roots that first launched us into the majority in the 1990s. Meanwhile, the Democratic leadership appears intent on repeating the same mistakes that helped bring our majority to an end. Fixing the earmark process and using the power of public scrutiny to stop wasteful pork-barrel spending is essential if we are to restore the bonds of trust between the American people and their elected leaders.
This column originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
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