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Thread: House defense bill riddled with earmarks

  1. #1

    House defense bill riddled with earmarks

    WASHINGTON House Republicans banned earmarks, a top symbol of congressional profligacy, after they won control of the chamber last fall in a wave of voter anger over excessive government spending.

    But more than half of the amendments to this year's House Department of Defense authorization bill were earmarks, according to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a leading congressional critic of the practice.

    In a report to be released this week, McCaskill said that the House Armed Services Committee's chairman, Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., set up a system that enabled members to "circumvent the earmark ban" by offering pre-approved amendments that outlined the projects and the funds they hoped to secure for their districts.

    While the committee said the projects described in the amendments were competitive, unlike earmarks, the sponsors were often lawmakers who had requested similar earmarks in the past. Moreover, some of them touted the projects in the amendments as boons for their districts or states as soon as the House of Representatives passed the bill.

    In addition, the report said, "These amendments were subsequently adopted in large groups with little or no debate" or public disclosure.

    The money to offset the costs of the amendments came from a "special fund" McKeon created by taking money from other defense accounts, according to the report, but which was "not dedicated to any clear defense spending priorities."

    A spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee could not be reached for comment Friday.

    But McKeon disputed McCaskill's claims when she first raised them in a letter to him last spring, following the House passage of the defense bill. In his reply, he called her contentions "inaccurate" and said that the bill has been "highlighted as a model for government transparency."

    McKeon said the defense authorization bill had been posted on the committee's website two days before the hearing in which the legislation would be put into final form. He also said the hearing was aired on CSPAN and the amendments were posted on the committee's website.

    When the committee developed its amendment plan, "we were cautiously optimistic that this would be a decent process," said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a government spending oversight group that opposes earmarks. "As it played out, we moved from being cautiously optimistic to being cautiously pessimistic."

    Earmarks are directed spending requests from lawmakers that benefit their districts or states and which receive little or no oversight. The more powerful and senior members are, the more earmarks they could get. Earmarks also were used to help shore up lawmakers in politically difficult districts.

    Opposition to earmarks once was the cause of a just few congressional outliers who opposed the often-secretive process. But opposition has grown as congressional spending has come under greater scrutiny.

    House and Senate Republicans, as well as the Democratic-run Senate Appropriations Committee, have banned earmarks' inclusion in legislation. President Barack Obama has said he would veto any bills that contained earmarks. Last week, McCaskill and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., called for a permanent ban.

    Of the 225 amendments to the House defense authorization bill that McCaskill's staff reviewed, aides judged that 115 totaling $834 million were earmarks, based on several factors. These included how similar an amendment was to a previous earmark requested by the same lawmaker. To determine that, her staff reviewed the lawmaker's website and press releases, past defense bills and earmark databases maintained by government watchdog groups.

    The report found that 75 of the alleged earmarks belonged to Democratic members of the House committee, who, unlike the Republicans, were not subject to a self-imposed ban. Republicans, meanwhile, contributed 40 of the alleged earmarks, including 20 from freshmen elected last fall.

    McCaskill said in an interview that she found the number of freshman Republicans surprising because the 2010 election, she said, "was supposed to be about reckless spending, shutting down the favor factory and no business as usual in Washington."

    The report cited several examples of lawmakers whose amendments it said closely resembled earmarks.

    Among them was Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., who submitted an amendment for the addition of $20 million for the Air Force to outfit bombers so they could carry a variety of munitions. Whiteman Air Force Base, where the B-2 bomber is based, is in her district.

    "It's not something that was earmarked in any way, shape or form," said her spokesman, Steve Walsh. "The Air Force will decide, not Vicky Hartzler, whether that money goes to Whiteman or anywhere else."

    Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., asked for $2.5 million in an amendment for weapons research and development, the report said. His predecessor, former Democratic Rep. Phil Hare, had made a similar request in fiscal 2010 along with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Grassley made one again in fiscal 2011.

    The report said that a veteran lawmaker, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., asked in an amendment for $2 million from Army research and development funds for "informatics tools to support clinical care and research." In the previous two years, the report said she had made similar requests, with the money to aid the University of South Florida's College of Medicine in her district. She issued a press release in May after the bill passed the committee.

    Read more: [url]http://www.kansascity.com/2011/12/11/3311557/democratic-senator-finds-house.html#ixzz1gMUf59cs[/url]

  2. #2
    [quote]Of the [B]225 amendments[/B] to the House defense authorization bill that McCaskill's staff reviewed, [B]aides judged that 115 — totaling $834 million — were earmarks[/B], based on several factors. These included how similar an amendment was to a previous earmark requested by the same lawmaker. To determine that, her staff reviewed the lawmaker's website and press releases, past defense bills and earmark databases maintained by government watchdog groups.

    [B]The report found that 75 of the alleged earmarks belonged to Democratic members of the House committee[/B], who, unlike the Republicans, were not subject to a self-imposed ban. Republicans, meanwhile, contributed 40 of the alleged earmarks, including 20 from freshmen elected last fall.[/quote]

    lol

  3. #3
    [QUOTE=AlwaysGreenAlwaysWhite;4274438]lol[/QUOTE]

    It's the PK "Cake & Eat It Too" Rule:

    (D) are not against Earmarks, so theirs are ok, and no matter how many they get, they have the moral supeirority over (R) on the topic.

    (R) is verbally against earmarks and want to end them, so even one is unacceptable to (D), and a way to attack them, even if they are still teh system in place.

    There is no circumstance where (D) loses.

    If (R) does not take any earmarks, their districts suffer while (D) districts get porky, and in the next election the (R) is attacked by his (D) opponent for not getting their district their due.

    If (R) does take earmarks, they are attacked mercillessly by guys like PK, for being hypocrites and worse than (D), because at east (D) never said they were against it. In the next election, the (R) is called a liar and a hypocrite by his (D) opponent.

    If the (R) doesn;t take any, but votes for a bill that has them in it, (D) can also call him a hypocrite for supporting the earmarks of otherts, even though (D) themselves (like McCaskill) who claim to be against them also vote for bills contining them in mass quantities. BEcause McCaskill is a (D) and (D) as a group are not against them, it's k that McCaskill is a hypcrite, because (D) as a whole is not.

    What (R) probably should say is this: I want to end earmarks as the system we operate under, but if they ARE the system, I'm going to represent my district and get as much as I can for them under the system I am forced to work under.

    Of course, even that wouldn't pass muster, and I can see at lest five ways (D) could attack that as well.
    Last edited by Warfish; 12-12-2011 at 05:36 PM.

  4. #4
    [QUOTE=AlwaysGreenAlwaysWhite;4274438]lol[/QUOTE]

    There are some people who feel earmarks are a necessary part of the process as it brings a lot of funds to help local projects back home. So if you do not have a problem with adding earmarks for that reason then make that argument. But the idea that you are going to get to Washington on a crusade against earmarks only to go back on your promise once you are elected is more of the usual hypocrisy from Washington.

    Its the same way that many of these conservatives, who have found fiscal responsibility in the same way that convicted felons find God, are the same ones that were rubber stamping wars to the tune of Billions of tax payer dollars during the Bush years.

    Both parties have sold out America a long time ago.
    Last edited by intelligentjetsfan; 12-12-2011 at 05:48 PM.

  5. #5
    [QUOTE=Warfish;4274455]It's the PK "Cake & Eat It Too" Rule:

    (D) are not against Earmarks, so theirs are ok, and no matter how many they get, they have the moral supeirority over (R) on the topic.

    (R) is verbally against earmarks and want to end them, so even one is unacceptable to (D), and a way to attack them, even if they are still teh system in place.

    There is no circumstance where (D) loses.

    If (R) does not take any earmarks, their districts suffer while (D) districts get porky, and in the next election the (R) is attacked by his (D) opponent for not getting their district their due.

    If (R) does take earmarks, they are attacked mercillessly by guys like PK, for being hypocrites and worse than (D), because at east (D) never said they were against it. In the next election, the (R) is called a liar and a hypocrite by his (D) opponent.

    What (R) probably should say is this: I want to end earmarks as the system we operate under, but if they ARE the system, I'm going to represent my district and get as much as I can for them under the system I am forced to work under.

    Of course, even that wouldn't pass muster, and I can see at lest five ways (D) could attack that as well.[/QUOTE]

    Well said...

    A self imposed earmark ban was clearly over the top, it'd be pretty interesting to sift through each one and see if that 'earmark' spurred anything of merit on a district by district basis...

    You'd probably find more sensible judgement on the side of Republicans but that's just speculation on my part.

  6. #6
    Kudos to Senator McKaskill for getting on board with Republicans on the earmark ban.

  7. #7
    [QUOTE=AlwaysGreenAlwaysWhite;4274462]Well said...

    A self imposed earmark ban was clearly over the top, it'd be pretty interesting to sift through each one and see if that 'earmark' spurred anything of merit on a district by district basis...

    You'd probably find more sensible judgement on the side of Republicans but that's just speculation on my part.[/QUOTE]

    Govt spending is out of control, well unless my district gets it. GOP!

  8. #8
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    [QUOTE=AlwaysGreenAlwaysWhite;4274462]A self imposed earmark ban was clearly over the top...[/QUOTE]

    All talk, no walk.

  9. #9
    [QUOTE=parafly;4274523]All talk, no walk.[/QUOTE]

    I agree.

    Sen. McCaskill should start voting "no" on bills which contain earmarks.

    Oh, wait....did you think she was consistent herself? Speaking against earmarks, then voting "yes" for thousands of them?

    Ah.

  10. #10
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    [QUOTE=Warfish;4274557]I agree.

    Sen. McCaskill should start voting "no" on bills which contain earmarks.

    Oh, wait....did you think she was consistent herself? Speaking against earmarks, then voting "yes" for thousands of them?

    Ah.[/QUOTE]

    I am unaware of her making any self-imposed earmark bans, but regardless, I would also place her in the "all talk, no walk" category.

  11. #11
    [QUOTE=parafly;4274573]I would also place her in the "all talk, no walk" category.[/QUOTE]

    Glad to see we agree.

    In any event, any "Earmark Ban" is all hot air until the system itself is changed. As long as earmarks are the vehicle for funding of state and local items in the rep's district, the smart ones will get their cut for those they represent. Because if they don't, it changes piss all, and someone else will get the spending...it's not like it won't get spent.

    The system is what needs changed, for all. Or, live with what it is, and earmarks are the accepted business-as-usual.

  12. #12
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    [QUOTE=intelligentjetsfan;4274457]There are some people who feel earmarks are a necessary part of the process as it brings a lot of funds to help local projects back home. So if you do not have a problem with adding earmarks for that reason then make that argument. But the idea that you are going to get to Washington on a crusade against earmarks only to go back on your promise once you are elected is more of the usual hypocrisy from Washington.

    Its the same way that many of these conservatives, who have found fiscal responsibility in the same way that convicted felons find God, are the same ones that were rubber stamping wars to the tune of Billions of tax payer dollars during the Bush years.

    [B]Both parties have sold out America a long time ago[/B].[/QUOTE]

    Government, fed, state and local is a spending anarchy.

  13. #13
    Jets Insider VIP
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    Federal earmarks: just one of many items on the long list of reasons why states should be more empowered to handle social legislation and Congress should stay out of that business.

  14. #14
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    [QUOTE=Warfish;4274455]It's the PK "Cake & Eat It Too" Rule: [/QUOTE]

    Not my fault still fail to understand what hypocrisy is.

    Saying that you're not going to do something and then doing it anyways will ALWAYS be worse than just doing it. If that wasn't true, the word "hypocrisy" wouldn't even be in the English language.

  15. #15
    [QUOTE=PlumberKhan;4275017]Not my fault still fail to understand what hypocrisy is.[/quote]

    Nor is it my fault you only wargarbl about it rather selectively, specificly only when it's an (R) involved.

    Claiming publicly to be against Earmarks, then voting yes for bills filled to the brim with earmarks, is a clear case of hypocricy.

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