Friday, June 08, 2007

Obey has an earmark-ache

Wisconsin's own Congressman Dave Obey is holding onto "36,000-plus earmark requests" until the appropriations bills go to the conference committee.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D, Wis.) indicated Monday in an interview with National Review Online that he might not include any earmarks in the Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bills if members get too “greedy” with their requests. The move would effectively extend a moratorium he and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Robert Byrd (D, W.V.), put into place when the Democrats took power in January.

Obey made these remarks in the course of defending his decision not to put any earmarks into the appropriations bills until they go to conference committees with the Senate, most likely some time in September. Critics of this plan, such as anti-pork Rep. Jeff Flake (R, Ariz.), argue that it wouldn’t give members enough time to review earmarks (provisions lawmakers can attach to bills directing agencies to fund specific projects) and offer amendments to strike out especially egregious ones.

But Obey says, “With all due respect, it’s a helluva lot more important that the committee that has jurisdiction” — in this case, Appropriations — “has the time to look at those requests.” Obey says he and his staff need the extra time to evaluate the 36,000-plus earmark requests members have submitted to the Appropriations Committee this year. “I think we have a helluva lot more ability [to root out bad earmarks],” he says, “than the individual working alone.”
Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity in a note to National Review Online is calling Obey's bluff:
Chairman Obey, I share your concern about unworthy projects receiving federal funding due to a lack of careful and thoughtful evaluation, and I agree that one individual working alone would have a very hard time completing this task in a timely manner.

However, I also think that thousands or millions of individual taxpayers working together could greatly aid you in completing your earmark request evaluations before you resort to sticking earmarks into un-amendable final legislation behind the closed doors of a conference committee. That’s why, on behalf of the thousands of Americans for Prosperity members from coast to coast, I’m writing to offer our help to you and your staff in evaluating this year’s earmark requests.

As you know, Internet technology has made research faster and easier than at any previous time in human history. By releasing your 36,000 earmark requests to Americans for Prosperity, our allies in other pro-taxpayer groups and to concerned bloggers, we would be able to unleash taxpayers across the country in a cooperative effort to determine which Members of Congress may have financial conflicts attached to their earmark requests, which local projects may be unworthy of federal funding and which may have value to the taxpayers.
To be fair, Obey did suggest there might not be any earmarks at all if the members were "greedy." He should let the public help him make that determination by releasing the list now.

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