Pig Picked: Transparency and Changing the Rules (Update: Rules Change Passes!)

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Sep 14, 2006 2:04 PM

Sure, he's cute now, Fern, but wait 'til Farmer Stevens gets ahold of him and turns him into a commemorative bridge to a remote island, which just happens to allow for the development of a family member's land investment. The spider won't be able to save him, then. Nope, "Some Pig" will just be "Some Bridge."

So, the transparency bill passed, which means we may soon have a new, fun website to play with:

WASHINGTON -- From $500,000 for a teapot museum in North Carolina to $450,000 for plants on the east side of the Capitol, the federal government spends hundreds of billions every year for grants, contracts, earmarks and loans. With creation of a new federal Web site, citizens will at least be able to see where some of their tax money goes.

The House on Wednesday passed by voice vote and sent to President Bush legislation to create a Web site that will give people ready access to information on the $300 billion in grants issued to some 30,000 organizations annually, and the roughly 1 million contracts exceeding a $25,000 threshold.

I say "may," because I imagine there are any number of logistics that will slow this thing down, and there won't be a lot of heroes pushing for its implementation in either of the two Chambers. That just means we need to stay on top of it in the blogosphere.

But, 'tis very good news, and we helped make it.

We could make some more good news today if a great rules change in the House goes through. I know the phrase "House rules change" is pretty much a snoozer, but don't let it fool you. House and Senate rules are a large part of what must change in order to change the spending culture of Washington.

Tim Chapman explained the rule change thusly:

Under the proposed change, all committee reports for appropriations bills, authorization bills or tax bills will be required to contain a list of all the earmarks in the legislation along with the names of the member who requested the earmark. Also, conference reports will be required to contain the same list with additions from the conference. Members who find a particular earmark inappropriate or egregious will have the freedom to highlight that project.

In other words, we'd all know which ludicrous projects belong to which ludicrous legislators. And, all the ludicrous legislators would know about each other's ludicrous projects, so they could call them on it. Okay, so only a few are actually gonna call anyone out, but it's still good.

Instapundit points out the people we should be calling to make sure this rules change makes it past the appropriators, who we are making ever more cranky with our incessant meddling. Make them cranky again by calling the Capitol switchboard and asking for one of these folks: (202) 224-3121

Jerry Lewis, CA (R - Chairman)
C. W. Bill Young, FL (R)
Ralph Regula, OH (R)
Harold Rogers, KY (R)
Frank R. Wolf, VA (R)
Jim Kolbe, AZ (R)
James Walsh, NY (R)
Charles H. Taylor, NC (R)
David L. Hobson, OH (R)
Ernest J. Istook, Jr., OK (R)
Henry Bonilla, TX (R)
Joe Knollenberg, MI (R)
Jack Kingston, GA (R)
Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, NJ (R)
Roger F. Wicker, MS (R)
Todd Tiahrt, KS (R)
Zach Wamp, TN (R)
Tom Latham, IA (R)
Anne Northup, KY (R)
Robert Aderholt, AL (R)
Jo Ann Emerson, MO (R)
Kay Granger, TX (R)
John E. Peterson, PA (R)
Virgil Goode, VA (R)
John Doolittle, CA (R)
Ray LaHood, IL (R)
John Sweeney, NY (R)
Don Sherwood, PA (R)
Dave Weldon, FL (R)
Michael K. Simpson, ID (R)
John Abney Culberson, TX (R)
Ander Crenshaw, FL (R)
Dennis R. Rehberg, MT (R)
John Carter, TX (R)
Rodney Alexander, LA (R)

Pork seems like a small thing, but it's really not. I keep using this phrase because it fits: Pork bacon-greases the skids for a thousand other worthless programs, inefficient entitlements, and sometimes outright corruption. And, Senate and House rules allow pork to be used in that way without ever requiring Members to justify projects to the public.

We're moving in the right direction, here, and it can have a big impact if we keep paying attention. At least now, we'll have the information to pay attention to!

Update: Andy Roth suggests also going after 35 "gettable" Democrats, who voted yes on the line-item veto, since we're not gonna be able to trust all these Republican appropriators.

Update: The Coburn/Obama press release on the transparency bill gives props where props is due:

“This landmark transparency legislation will reduce wasteful spending by empowering every American to be a citizen investigator capable of holding the government accountable for spending decisions,” Coburn and Obama said. “The bloggers, commentators and citizens who tirelessly pushed for this transparency legislation deserve full credit for its enactment.

Update: Earmark reform rules change debate going on on C-SPAN right now. You know, if you're into that kinda thing, and y'all know I am.

Update: Democratic argument against the rule, predictably, is "you're not doing enough to fix this problem. Yes, earmarking and corruption are out of hand, and we need desperately to regain the trust of the American people. Don't get us wrong; that's of the utmost importance to us. In fact it's so important to us, that we will be opposing this legislation because it is insufficiently robust in its reform efforts. What we need is real reform. Yeah, that's the ticket."

Update: John Boehner:

“Today’s an important day for the House, as an institution.”

“We need a process to identify worthless earmarks...(this bill would make those earmarks) publicly identified, debated, and weeded out.”

“This information will be publicly available for everyone to see…if you’re requesting a project, you'll have to put your name on it. It's just common sense-- if you’re not willing to put your name on a project, you shouldn’t expect the American people to pay for it.”

“The goal here is to bring earmarking out of the shadows and into the light of public scrutiny.”

“It likely will result in fewer earmarks.”

Jeff Flake:

"We owe this institution we are giving it. Let's pass this bill and give it more of the respect that it deserves."

Update: The rules change passes by a surprisingly large margin, 245-171. Would that the House and Senate would keep pleasantly surprising this fiscal conservative as they have lately. Andy has more reactions from Reps on the floor. 

Update: Here's your roll call.

Twenty-four Republicans vote no, including one of my guys-- Jack Kingston. Andy zings him for standing with the appropriators instead of standing with conservatives. Yeah, bad move.

Update: White House press release:

I applaud the House of Representatives for voting again this week in support of greater transparency and accountability in government. H.R. 1000 would shine a brighter light on earmarks by requiring disclosure of the sponsors of each provision. This reform would help improve the legislative process by making sure both lawmakers and the public are better informed before Congress votes to spend the taxpayers’ money.

Niiice.