Feeling the heat last year, Republicans finally passed a reform requiring all earmarks to be identified by their sponsor and open to debate and to a vote on the House floor. While this is a step in the right direction, it proved too little and too late.Democrats used the GOP’s spending binges as a campaign issue to promise reform and take power in Congress.
Now that Democrats control both chambers, they’ve suddenly lost all interest in stopping pork-barrel spending.
In fact, the new process Democrats recently announced will actually be more secretive and unaccountable than ever. At a recent press conference, Mrs. Pelosi and the chairman of the committee on appropriations, David Obey, declared that they don’t have time to debate earmarks or even insert them into committee reports.
Instead, members must vote for spending bills first, then later this summer they will be given the earmark list and can send written challenges on anything they don’t like to Mr. Obey. He alone will then decide which ones to eliminate from the House-Senate conference bill before the conference bill vote. Those bills are voted up-or-down. They cannot be amended.
In response, Mr. Boehner announced he will mobilize the House GOP for an all out fight on this issue. He promised to use all his tools to stop this new system.
The presidential candidates on one side of the aisle are also addressing this seriously. John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson are all calling for ending secret earmarks.
And, of course, a president has the ultimate solution to the earmark problem: He can veto a spending bill, and tell Congress he’ll only sign it when the wasteful spending is gone. Congress would get the message after a few vetoes. I’m happy to finally see candidates promise to do exactly that.
Wasteful government spending has been a campaign cliché for too long. It’s now time for action, not rhetoric. And it’s time for those promising reform to deliver.
If the Democrats don’t reverse their course, their congressional reign will be short and their nominee will fail. And if the GOP proves it’s serious about fixing our nation’s spending problems, they will be back on track to regaining the voters’ trust.