EARMARK ALERT: Sens. McCain and Coburn Uncover $500 Million In Earmarks In Continuing Resolution

David Williams

March 13, 2013

It seems as though the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) today released a list of earmarks worth more than $500 million added to the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution that is slated to fund the government for the rest of the year.  With a $16.7 trillion debt and a deficit eclipsing the $800 billion mark, the Senate should be ashamed for adding these earmarks to the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution.  Earmarks have been the bribery currency of Congress for many years, as both parties used them to buy votes, bring federal dollars to their district and ultimately get re-elected. Former members of Congress including Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) were sent to jail for accepting bribes to secure earmarks. Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff also spent time in jail in connection with earmarks promised to clients.  Earmarks circumvent established budgetary processes and procedures and further exacerbate taxpayers’ cynicism of Washington, D.C. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has called earmarks “the gateway drug to spending addiction in Washington.”  In 2010, the House and Senate agreed to a two year moratorium on earmarks, yet there were reports of Congress backsliding on this promise – with earmarks being found in the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills.

History Repeating

Budget impasses don’t seem to bother Congress as they try to add earmarks.   In 2010, the House and Senate agreed to a two year moratorium on earmarks, yet there were reports of Congress backsliding on this promise – with earmarks being found in the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills.  When Congress passed the multi-thousand-page Omnibus spending bill right before their Christmas vacation in 2011, they forgot to tell taxpayers about the earmarks hidden in the bill. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) uncovered 89 earmarks worth $3 billion in the Defense section of the bill (click here to see the full list) despite the insistence of both political parties that that the bill was free of earmarks and the claim that Congress stuck to their self-imposed ban on earmarks.  Government watchdogs and taxpayers had very little opportunity to scrutinize the spending bill since it was released early Thursday (12/15) morning and voted on Friday (12/16) afternoon.  The initial links to the legislation only contained legislative language and not report details.  The release of the conference report details occurred after votes by the House and the Senate.  This was a shameful lack of transparency and fiscal responsibility.   What was more disappointing is that Congress showed some bit of fiscal restraint in the bill, but the inclusion of earmarks shows that the temptation of earmarks will always be present.

It is time for Congress to be serious about eliminating earmarks for good by passing legislation like S. 1930, the Earmark Elimination Act, which was proposed in 2012 by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).  S. 1930 would have  permanently killed earmarks and given life to fiscal responsibility.

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