The Defense Appropriations Bill in the Senate has been unveiled and frankly, it is staggering. Senate appropriators disclosed approximately 936 earmarks totaling $5.1 billion. Republican Senator Ted Stevens led the earmarking pack with $189 million, followed by Democrat Senators Daniel Inouye at $183 million & Robert Byrd at $166 million. Interestingly enough, these three Senators represent the states of Alaska, Hawaii, and West Virginia whose combined total population would just barely pass Oregon which ranks 27th in population among the 50 states.
What I find most interesting is not the disclosed earmarks, but rather those that are undisclosed. Typically the total earmarks in an appropriations bill can be more than double with the inclusion of undisclosed earmarks. The House version of the Defense appropriations bill contained $3 billion in earmarks, but adding in undisclosed projects in the senate raised the total to the $6.5 billion neighborhood.
Admitting you have problem is always the first step. Until Congress and the appropriators agree to disclose each and every earmark for public review and debate, we cannot begin to have meaningful earmark reform.