Earmarks or Open Government? Show US the Budget !

By Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL)
Congressional Record
June 12, 2007 (H6314)

Mr. Chairman, I have a question I think the American people would like answered. It is a question that has not been asked tonight. We know ]House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI)], and we know he has taken a position that he is not going to publish or disclose these earmarks [for the DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008]. He has expressed his opinion.

What we don’t know, Mr. Chairman, is, the Speaker is not sitting in the Chair and we don’t know where the Speaker stands on this whole procedure. We do know that the majority leader said that all earmarks would be published, there would be complete transparency. We know that he said in committee they would be debated. We know that the Speaker on a number of occasions, I think we have all seen those quotes, we have heard a few tonight, the Speaker make it clear during the campaign and after the campaign that all earmarks would be disclosed prior to any vote on the House floor.

So, Mr. Chairman, I believe it is incumbent on the Speaker to come before this body and address the body and tell the body whether or not the procedure that we are witnessing, whether it is chairman of the Appropriations Committee has taken this on himself, whether he is doing it on his own accord, whether he has polled the Democrat Members to see where they stand.

But more important, we want to know where the Speaker stands. We want to know whether the Speaker consulted with the chairman, whether she has blessed this. We know what she said in USA Today. We know what she said in the Christian Science Monitor and what she said in a news conference just last month. We know that in a press conference on March 13, 2007, she specifically said that all earmarks would be made public before a vote on the House floor. We know that, so it is a mystery to us why we are going through this process.

Now, the chairman of the full committee said back in 1999 there was a bill, one bill, that the Republican majority did not publish the earmarks before the vote on the floor. We know that is part of his reason for doing this. But we also know that the Speaker of the House told the American people that this would never happen as long as she was Speaker. And she, as a late as a month ago, said there would be no votes on the House floor on an appropriations bill where earmarks were not published.

In fact, the gentleman from Illinois, the majority whip, says, if possible, we are going to put them on the Internet weeks before we vote on them on the House floor. They are not on the Internet. We don’t know how many earmarks there will be, what earmarks are under consideration, the total amount of those earmarks.

But more importantly, we do know one thing, Mr. Chairman, we know that the Speaker of this House, the Speaker of this House said that this wouldn’t happen. She said it many times on many occasions, both during the campaign when she asked the American people to turn the Republicans out and put the Democrats in.

And we know that from exit polls that many people went to the polls on election day with that promise in mind; and they voted for Democrats who now serve in this body under the assurance that this wouldn’t happen, and it is happening.

Now, we know that the chairman of the full committee, we know his position. He said we just have to do. He talks about what we have done and what they have done. The important thing is the American people.

In fact, earlier tonight on one of the news network, it was not Fox, they asked: Where does Speaker Pelosi stand on this? The American people are asking, where does the leadership of the majority stand on this issue?

That is my question, Mr. Chairman. I would ask that before we proceed in this body, that the Speaker of this House come before this body and not tell, I don’t care if she tells Republicans, I don’t care if she further explains to Democrats, I want her to tell the American people why, only 3 weeks after promising that earmarks would be fully disclosed both in committee and on the floor of this House, that we backed away from this.

By Rep. David Obey (D-WI)
Congressional Record
June 12, 2007 (H6315)

We had crocodile tears expressed here about the number of earmarks and what will happen to earmarks. Let me cite the record.

In 1994, the last year when Democrats controlled the House, earmarks were primarily concentrated in four appropriation bills. They were project-oriented bills like military construction, energy and water, Interior and general government. This Homeland Security bill had not even come to pass yet because it was before 9/11.

In the Labor-Health-Education appropriation bill the last year that the Democrats controlled, we had zero earmarks. The last year under Republican control that we had earmarks in the Labor-H bill, we had over 3,000.

In the Transportation bill, the authorizing bill, from 1956 through 1995, we had 20 separate highway bills pass this House containing a total of 739 earmarks. Do you know how many we had, Mr. Chairman, in 2005 under Republican control in just one bill? Five thousand.

Then we all remember the infamous 3-hour vote on Medicare part D.

I would ask my colleagues on this side of the aisle to keep this civil. If the other side wants to turn it into a circus, fine, but I think we ought to behave.

Let me say, we remember Medicare part D when the Republican leadership kept the vote open for 3 hours. Meanwhile, the newspaper stories told of how they promised earmarks in the transportation bill in return for votes on Medicare part D.

Last year, we had three major scandals. We had the Cunningham affair, then we had the bridge-to-nowhere, which caused a lot of heartburn around the country; and now, just recently, we have another story suggesting that the committee chairman then, the gentleman from Alaska, inserted a project for Florida.

Under Republican rules, as they existed then, nobody knew about any of that until about 2 years after the fact. Under the proposal that we are proposing for earmarks, you would know about that 30 days before they went into effect. That is a huge difference.

Let me also point out, in 1994, the four biggest appropriation bills that’s Commerce-Justice, Labor, Transportation and VA-HUD. The last year the Democrats controlled the House, in 1994, the four major appropriations bills, Commerce-Justice, Labor-Health, Transportation and VA, we had a total of 764 earmarks. Those same bills, just one fiscal year ago, had 8,600 earmarks.

With all due respect, I don’t want to hear any crocodile tears on the other side of the aisle with respect to the issue of earmarks. They have exploded under their operation of this House, not under ours.

In terms of what’s going on tonight, I should make quite clear that the gentleman from California (Mr. Lewis) told me in January that the minority party would give us no procedural cooperation because they didn’t like the way we had handled a continuing resolution. They wanted us to have a straight CR rather than thinking our way through priorities. Now they have simply moved on to another excuse.

So I would simply say, whether you vote for the underlying amendment or for the amendment to the amendment, these are not real amendments. It is clear to me that they have only one purpose, to bring this House to a halt, and they are looking for any excuse they can find.

They got a mighty weak one, but we are going to stay here until the job is done. This is the people’s business. We are not going to be diverted by their trying to play Trivial Pursuit on this bill.

By Rep. Don Young (R-AL)
Congressional Record
June 12, 2007 (H6315)

I have voted every time to continue our process against my leadership. I was not going to say anything, but when you referr
to the bridge-to-nowhere as a scandal, when you voted for it four times, most of the people in this room voted for it four times. It was always transparent. I was always proud of my earmarks. I believe in earmarks, always have, as long as they are exposed.

But don’t you ever call that a scandal.

By Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ)
Congressional Record
June 12, 2007 (H6316)

You can accept those facts tonight and change the procedure. The majority can accept that fact tomorrow and change the procedure. The majority can accept that fact next week and change the procedure, but the procedure will change.

I have the greatest respect for the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. I admire his energy, his tenacity and his passion. I understand that he believes he has proposed a fair system. I understand that he has just recited for us a history lesson about how earmarks were handled in the past.

But I would suggest to you that time moves on. The American people now understand earmarks in a way they did not understand. The American people understand earmarks, and they understand this process, and they cannot be fooled. You cannot take the process for disclosing earmarks and make those earmarks public after the bill has been debated.

There is not a constituent of yours that believes that makes sense. The American people understand that some people in this body believe earmarks are very good, and some people in this body believe earmarks can be very bad and very corrupt.

They are in unanimity on one point, and that is, they want to know what’s in those earmarks. That means those earmarks have to be debated on this floor.

Now, I understand that the gentleman who is the chairman of the Appropriations Committee believes that he can just vet them, and he can post them in August, but that obviates the most important part of this process. We do not engage in this process by adding language to bills, critical language to bill language that the American people don’t get to see or know about after debate has occurred.

We didn’t tell the American people that we would make the process open this year, that we would disclose every earmark and allow every earmark to be debated, because we don’t run the place.

You run the place. You’re in the majority.

By mopress

Writer, Editor, Educator, Lifelong Student

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