This will get wholly ignored in the Senate:
House Democratic leaders on Wednesday banned budget earmarks to private industry, ending a practice that has steered billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to companies and set off corruption scandals.
The ban is the most forceful step yet in a three-year effort in Congress to curb abuses in the use of earmarks, which allow individual lawmakers to award financing for pet projects to groups and businesses, many of them campaign donors.
But House Republicans, in a quick round of political one-upmanship, tried to outmaneuver Democrats by calling for a ban on earmarks across the board, not just to for-profit companies. Republicans, who expect an intra-party vote on the issue Thursday, called earmarks “a symbol of a broken Washington.”
It makes no sense giving no-bid contracts via earmarks, so this is a welcome attempt at change, but I still find all the attention given to the relatively small amount of money spent on earmarks to be amusing. Hell, the Army spends more on diesel fuel and JP8 every year than congress spends on earmarks, and in a lot of cases, earmarks are completely legit.
While I understand where you are coming from the fact that earmarks are so easily subject to corruption is what makes them a worthy target. It is so much easier for someone to be able to “skim” money off a contract in an entirely legal manner if the person getting the contract thinks that but for that one person they never would have got the contract so they better take care of them by donating to their favorite causes, like their campaign. So its not the size of the dollars but the corrosive impact it has on the system.
but I still find all the attention given to the relatively small amount of money spent on earmarks to be
Fixed, due to the fact that not only is this a time-waster but exactly what the Republicans would want to do, pick a fight over useless crap to send important issues to the backburner.
The Grand Panjandrum
We could cut every dime of discretionary non-defense related spending out, hold defense spending flat (in real dollars, not just in the rate of growth), AND we would still be in deep shit. Medicare (parts a through D) and Medicaid are the problem. Medicare Part D is the single largest corporate giveaway in the history of our country. But we should start over with HCR because, well, the panty sniffing ratfuckers in the GOP are all butthurt about any and every little thing.
If they want to ban all earmarks, perhaps we should call their bluff.
Or perhaps not. There might be a lot of damage done from cutting worthy funding by a step like this, but isn’t it possible to return it through some outside maneuver?
If they want to ban all earmarks, perhaps we should call their bluff.
The Grand Panjandrum
@The Grand Panjandrum: My point being that getting rid of earmarks is like the guy using a garden hose to keep the raging forest fire away from his house while he leaves untouched the heavily forested area only 15 feet away from his back door.
Well, good on the Republicans. Legit stuff doesn’t have to be hidden anonymously in a bill.
On the one had we could say that even a blind squirrel finds an acorn, however on the other, I doubt that Republicans are sincere; this sounds like the opening move for something else. The president wants earmarks done openly and posted online. Democrats are probably assembling the pieces to nullify the Robert’s Court Citizens United Decision; and the Republicans are attempting to poison the well.
In the meantime P.T.D.B.
I’m betting that if you checked into the legislative histories of the House Republicans who are pushing for a total earmark ban, you’d find an awful lot of earmarks tagged for their district…
Yes, earmarks are a ridiculously small amount of money. However, it seems to take a ridiculously small amount of money to buy a Congressman.
In his defense, Obama has suggested we create a system that will publicly keep track of all earmarks, no more hiding.
So much for this meme that Obama is a secretive s-list who wants to destroy freedom right?
I, for one, am not against legit earmarks for public projects. I am against secretly handing off tax payer dollars to companies for pet projects.
Time for the GOP to STFU and deal with this. Another promise Obama and congress seem to be keeping.
I think we all need to realize that any meme that sells Obama and the dems as against true reform and for the status quo as wrong and call it out as much as possible. If this kind of thing works for the right, it can work for us as well.
Were “earmarks” screamed about as much before President McCain kept repeating it unendingly? I don’t recall.
I think there may be a technical reason why it doesn’t include non-profits in the earmark ban. There are a bunch of federally funded R&D centers, like, oh, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia labs, who could be inadvertently blown away by that kind of language.
Aha! Finally, a way to get rid of them damn pointy head “science” types!
True enough, but why not make them all legit? Bogus earmarks may be petty, but they seem to have a snowballing effect. Fairly irresistible with the potential to lead to the harder stuff.
Well, it is about the size at that. A $50 million contract is small potatoes in the federal budget, but it buys a lot of rubber chicken fundraiser dinners. It’s just so easy to loop off and hand out a virtual fortune, and there’s really no oversight against it. If you cut some no-bid to a construction worker and he does a shitty job, it’s not like the Interior Secretary is going to be found at fault. And it’s going to be a bit crazy trying to tie back a questionable construction project finished ten years later to a Congressman who may have already retired. :-p
@El Cid: Are the R&D Centers non-profit? Then they’re in the clear.
Are they for-profit? Then maybe they shouldn’t be getting no-bid funding.
@Zifnab: Are the R&D Centers non-profit? Then they’re in the clear.
What we were talking about is the oh-so-principled Republican response trying to extend it to non-profits as well.
Well, hell, just do it like the Air Force refueling tanker deal. That one only took three years and wound up in a bidding war between Boeing and… Well, okay. How does a bidding process with a single bidder differ from a no bid contract?
@Bill H: Well, okay. How does a bidding process with a single bidder differ from a no bid contract?
In the single bidder case, you’d still have to meet the technical and programmatic criteria of the Request for Proposal, plus be subject to all the federal acquisition regulations. I’m not sure what a no-bid contact would really mean.
That said, the AF tanker contract is probably the biggest acquisition mess this country has ever seen and I don’t know how anyone can have any confidence in the process given what happened. Small and mid-size competitive government contracts are strictly regulated and, I think, a lot more fairly and openly awarded than anything in the commercial realm, but the big contracts get Congress’s mitts all over them and turn into more political punching bags.
What exactly is it that makes something an “earmark” in a particular bill? Is it that it is tangential (at best) to the omnibus bill it is passed under? What if a seperate bill were introduced for the sole purpose of allocating money for the construction of a combination library/post office/national guard armory in Bumfnck, TX – is that then still an earmark, or does it lose its earmarkishness by virtue of being the primary point of the bill? Can this be objectively scored by somebody like the CBO or the parliamentarian, or is it a mainly subjective judgment?
@The Populist: I think I may have written badly – I am actually in favor of Earmark Sunshine. Both parties have been complicit in hiding all earmarks in order to shield themselves from the blowback of really odious spending.
I think it’d be hilarious to call their bluff. “Oh, we weren’t talking about those earmarks. Besides, they’re not really earmarks. Don’t you know anything?”
@ThatLeftTurnInABQ: What exactly is it that makes something an “earmark” in a particular bill?
For all practical purposes, I’m guessing it simplifies down nicely to “something the person speaking doesn’t like”.
I’m guessing that you could try to isolate non-entitlement spending that was not part of the submitted departmental budgeting plan, but I dunno.
@Zifnab: It was a joke. I’m really surprised anyone seemed to take that seriously.
Bingo. Nobody really has a great definition of what an earmark is beyond the “I know it when I see it” test.
This, combined with the fact that earmarks are small potatoes (the Bridge to Nowhere cost a mere $400 million, a drop in the bucket for the federal budget) means that nobody paying attention really gives a shit about earmark reform.
I was wondering if it had something to do with bypassing the relevant dept., thereby effectively cutting the cabinet heads out of the decision as to how to allocate money. In other words it is one thing to direct that the DOD must allocate X billion dollars to establish a facility for creating sharks with laser beams on their heads, while leaving it up to the Sec Def., et al. to figure out how and where to do this (while allowing for the fact that the language in the bill may specify in such great detail exactly what sort of sharks are involved, what sort of laser beams, etc. that effectively only one facility will meet the requirements), and another thing to specify that the facility in question must be built on the parcel of land already owned by Dr. Evil Enterprises, LLC, in San Diego, CA, and commonly known to the public as SeaWorld.
@ThatLeftTurnInABQ: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. A good number do circumvent the relevant department or committee for appropriation, but other times, it’s an amendment to a bill that it has absolutely nothing in common with, but still went through the routine process.
“…in a lot of cases, earmarks are completely legit.”
I agree completely. The hysteria over the mysterious beast known as the ‘earmark’ was a hallmark of the McCain campaign as well as the Obama campaign.
Just like the deficit, banning abortion and flag-burning amendments, it’s a hysteria that keeps on delivering the votes of the sheep–without delivering a single actual result.
And that’s the GOP’s business model right there, in a nutshell.
So going back to my original question, how is a ban on earmarks to be enforced, if there is no widely agreed upon set of criteria for identifying when a particular subsection of a bill is in fact an earmark, and an at least theoretically neutral and objective observer (like the CBO) to score them?
And if not, are we going to have to have a vote in Congress on each so called earmark, to determine whether it is in fact is an earmark or not, so we know whether it is banned or not? Which of course will simply ad yet another layer of delay and obfustication to the whole process. Can we call it the McCain Rule?
@ThatLeftTurnInABQ: What will likely happen is that they’ll come up with some arbitrary definition of what an earmark is using the shotgun approach, immediately find some way to circumvent this new rule, and funnel all earmarks through that new method.
Which is to say that jack all will happen, and Republicans probably know it. I guess they think that this is some almost-cynical attempt to pander to voters. Because as we saw, that went over well when McCain tried it.
The Moar You Know
A lot of non-profits serve as front companies for your smaller defense contractors, so I’d actually be in favor of a ban to the non-profits as well.
Demonizing earmarks is such an easy sell because Americans are willing to expend large amounts of energy bitching that someone else got something that they didn’t.
Yeah. If we categorized defense spending as a kind of colossal earmark, it would have never been passed.
My university receives a couple million a year on average in earmark funding. These are funded by a direct appropriation in an appropriations bill with the knowledge of the relevant military research laboratory and are trumpeted by the school in press releases so aren’t particularly secret. These pay for research (pay for American students in engineering and supplies mainly) and buy needed equipment. So not much scope for corruption, unfortunately.