Skirting the Rules

John Campbell
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Posted: Dec 12, 2007 11:03 AM

In anticipation of the introduction and vote on a massive appropriations bill this week, Republican staffers, outside interest groups, and spending watchdogs are preparing for a frantic race to figure out what exactly is in this bill.

Republicans have been largely locked out of drafting meetings for the omnibus spending bill, which funds almost every federal agency.  Despite the Democrat’s new transparency rules this year, this appropriations measure is moving as an “amendment between houses”, which exempts the bill from earmark disclosure rules. I find this especially disturbing because Democrats, since winning the election, have peddled transparency and accountability ad nauseum as mandates from the American people to which they hold sacred.  Now, on the eve of this massive collection of spending bills worth billions of dollars of taxpayer money, their mandate is suddenly nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, even as they prepare to blitzkrieg enormous legislation stuffed full of secret earmarks in absolute silence, we now see what transparency really means to the Democrats.

Last week the Rules Committee approved a rule to introduce the bill Tuesday and fast-track it to the floor the same day.  This skirts normal procedures which require 72 hours notice before a bill goes to the floor.  To prevent this, Republicans offered an amendment that would have required a published list of earmarks, but the amendment was defeated. 

This bill was anticipated to come to the floor last night, but Democratic leaders pulled the bill in light of the inability to reach consensus among their own caucus, not to mention Republicans, concerned with the fiscal ramifications and undisclosed pork throughout the bill.

Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) claims Republicans were bargaining in bad faith, but the truth is we were never invited to the table.

One of the great challenges will be finding where they buried earmarks in thousands of pages of legislation in only a few hours.