Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lugar Opposes Placing Moratorium On Earmarks

The earmark process in Congress is symbolic of decades of wasteful spending that has helped bring about a seemingly iinsurmountable federal debt that threatens the very way of life for average Americans. Republicans in the Senate have taken up the call of tea party activists to end earmarks--at least temporarily. Sen. John McCain has long advocated against earmarks but many congressional Republicans have been just as reluctant as Democratic members to give up the ability to earmark spending for their pet projects in the federal budget. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for earmarks, but McConnell surprised everyone and signed on to an effort to place a two-year moratorium on them. Sen. Richard Lugar, who says he intends to seek an unprecedented seventh term in 2012, is not among the Republicans calling for an end to earmarks. Lugar released a statement today stating his position:

I oppose the Senate Republican Conference voluntary moratorium on so-called “earmarks.” At a moment in which over-spending by the Federal government perpetuates annual deficits of over $1 trillion a year, the Congress is being asked to debate a Congressional earmark spending resolution which will save no money even while giving the impression that the Congress is attempting to meet the public demand to reduce spending.

Instead of surrendering Constitutional authority to Washington bureaucrats and the Obama Administration, Congress should focus on reducing spending on both entitlement and discretionary spending programs. Providing the Obama Administration with greater authority to direct spending does not accomplish this goal, and eliminating earmarks does not reduce spending.

The Constitution explicitly states that it is the responsibility of Congress to make decisions on the appropriation of federal taxpayer funds. Earmarks should be considered and treated like amendments to any underlying spending bill. Members should have the opportunity to offer earmarks, review them, and offer motions to strike or modify them. And each of these steps -- from the committee process, to the floor, to the conference committee -- should take place in an absolute transparent and deliberate manner and be publicly disclosed at each step along the way with a final public up or down vote.

In 2008, I was asked by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to serve as a chairman of a fiscal reform working group to find consensus on the issue of earmarks within the Republican Conference. Our working group unanimously supported efforts to reduce spending, but held strong and diverse views on the subject of earmarks. However, we were able to come to an agreement and issued a report.

While this report was never enacted into law, the Senate Appropriations Committee has adopted many of the transparency suggestions. Since that time, I have abided by the framework of the report and have disclosed projects that I have requested on behalf of Indiana communities on my website.

Our working group advocated that, “an open and accountable amendment process and absolute transparency on every Member request successfully inserted into legislation is essential to the integrity of federal spending. In addition, Members should also have assurance that when they vote for a specific bill or conference report that all earmarks are written in a clear and transparent manner.”

Further, our working group noted that, “the practice of earmarking is not limited to Members of Congress but is also apparent in the President’s budget proposal. Likewise, these requests should be clear, transparent, and subject to amendment or deletion.”

Congress should exercise, rather than abdicate, its Constitutional authority to cut spending and reduce the deficit.

Lugar's contention that it is more important to achieve budget savings through changes in entitlement programs and discretionary spending is quite true, but his suggestion that ending earmarks won't reduce federal spending is simply ludicrous. Earmarks represent a little less than 2% of the federal budget, but that still represents billions of dollars in spending every year. McConnell has simply asked for a 2-year moratorium on earmarks as part of a wider effort to close the federal budget deficit, which is currently about 1.3 trillion dollars. If Lugar is trying to give ammunition to a prospective primary opponent in 2012, he is achieving that with his stubborn opposition to at least placing a moratorium on earmark spending.


DMC said...

Sigh...you write this as if you believe that ending earmarks will prevent the money from being spent. It won't.

If the ALREADY APPROPRIATED money is not directed to a specific project, the money will be spent at the discretion of the agency to which it was appropriated. There would be ZERO change in spending.

Personally, I'd prefer to see the monies directed by the Executive Branch, but that's because I'm a Democrat. In the couple of years I've been reading you, I don't recall such an obvious distortion of facts.

artfuggins said...

Lugar understands the way things work and refuses to play along with this charade on earmarks being promoted by the tea party.

Advance Indiana said...

The problem is the agencies count on the earmarks being in the budget so they build room in their budgets to cover their spending priorities so the earmarks don't water down their priorities. It's a vicious cycle.

Unigov said...

Lugar = RINO

He's favors the LOST:


...which is as BIG GOVernment as it gets.

Advance Indiana said...

Frankly, I want to puke every time I see Andre Carson standing up at a press conference to brag about some earmark he got for something for the city. If I were going to run against Lugar, I would lay the blame for a lot of this crap at his doorsteps. Before Lugar became mayor, Indianapolis mayors did not look to the federal government for handouts. Lugar changed that in a big way. He chased federal dollars like nobody's business. Go back and check who was Nixon's favorite mayor and a big supporter of federal revenue sharing, an idea conceived by a Republican president and wholeheartedly embraced by Mayor Lugar. It really kicked off this whole idea of looking to D.C. to fund things that before had always been funded at the state and local level and, naturally, caused the federal budget to balloon. Nixon originally just wanted to give the money away without strings attached. It was only a matter of time before Washington managed to reach into every aspect of our lives by dictating how those monies had to be spent.

dcrutch said...

Earmarks dilute the intention and merit of legislation. Instead of affirming or voting against something, we get voting because of some "bonus coupon" that's attached to the bottom. Not something that stands on it's own merit, but something to garner enough votes from the "other guy". Pretty soon the other guy needs something big passed and tacks something onto his legislation. Lo and behold, many years and double-digit trillions in debt, deficit, and obligations later- here we are! Who has been our Indiana senator coinciding with this evolution?

The inexperience of President Obama and Mayor Ballard costs us dearly? Yeah, I'll buy that. But, with due respect to his work on nuclear disarmament, we're now in the midst of a fiscal Three Mile Island.

What help has the years of "moderation" by Senator Lugar been for that?