Senate Democrats

President Bush: Trying to Have it Both Ways on Earmarks

With his attack on earmarks, President Bush is trying to have it both ways. The President has criticized Congress for its earmarking, but the President himself requested more than $20 billion in earmarks last year.  In the 110th Congress, Democrats were the first to bring transparency and accountability to earmarks and drastically cut earmarks to ensure better oversight.  Bush Republicans have little credibility on the issue – earmarks more than quadrupled under Republican rule, including billions of dollars in earmarks signed into law by President Bush. Furthermore, Republican leaders in the Senate routinely tout their ability to deliver for their states. Instead of trying to pick political fights, the President should work with Democrats to craft solutions to the pressing problems facing our nation, like the declining economy, soaring health care and energy costs and ongoing threats to our national security.

President Bush’s attacks on Democrats lack credbility:

Earmarks Were Cut Significantly by the Democratic Congress. “The new Democratic Congress delivered on the promise of ethics and lobbying reform, and made considerable progress in reining in earmarks, which had exploded under the previous 12 years of mostly Republican rule. In fact, between the 2006 and 2008 fiscal years, the cost of appropriations earmarks appears to have dropped from $29 billion to $14.1 billion.” [New York Times, Op-ed by Thomas Mann, Molly Reynolds and Nigel Holmes, 1/19/08]

Democrats’ Earmark Reforms Have Worked. “The new rules ‘get some of the junk out of the system. They increase accountability,’ said Gerald Warburg, executive vice president of Cassidy & Associates and one of the deans of the appropriations game. Members are more sensitive to the appearance of impropriety now, he said. Congressional leaders often engaged in so-called log-rolling, doling out earmarks as rewards to help get their bills passed. ‘There was a lot of that going on two or three years ago, and there’s a lot less of that now,’ he said.” [The Politico, 1/22/08]

Republicans Have Struggled to Gain Traction on Earmarks, Because of Their Record of Wasteful Spending. “The Republican plan to slam the minority over wasteful spending is far from novel — it’s a trick often used by the party out of power. But with many conservative activists still fuming at record spending under President Bush, Republicans are planning to make this a staple of their agenda for all of 2008… And attempts by Bush and his conservative allies to turn them into a partisan issue will likely be muted by their own party’s history on the matter and their continued use of them.” [The Politico, 1/22/08]

  • Even Republican Congressman Shadegg Admitted Republicans Had Made Earmarking Worse When They Took the Majority in 1994. “‘Republicans promised not to engage in that type of conduct and then did engage in it,’ said Rep. John B. Shadegg (R-Ariz.), who came in with the class of 1994 with the agenda of cleaning up government waste. In fact, Shadegg said, the so-called Republican revolution actually made things worse, not better… The number of earmarks jumped from 3,000 in 1995 to 15,000 in 2005. Earmarks have run the gamut, from the infamous ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ in Alaska to money for local fire departments, community centers and cancer research. And some have surfaced as controversial. Over the past four years, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) has secured $2.75 million to revitalize Washington’s Barracks Row neighborhood, where his family owns a home.” [The Politico, 1/22/08]

President Bush’s Earmark Watchdog, Jim Nussle Was a Major Earmarker.  “Democrats have pork spending on the menu for their grilling of Jim Nussle, President Bush’s pick as White House budget director. Nussle’s confirmation hearings will focus on the former congressman’s pursuit of earmarks for Iowa, as well as ballooning deficits during his tenure as chairman of the House Budget Committee… As budget chief, Nussle secured tens of millions of dollars for Iowa roads, bridges and buses, as well as $500,000 for an addition and exhibit at the Grout Museum, a history and science museum in northeastern Iowa.  In 2005, Nussle tucked language into an emergency war spending bill that channeled $12 million to the Rock Island Arsenal for ‘industrial mobilization capacity.’” [Washington Post, 6/29/07]  

We wonder if President’s cabinet secretaries, who distribute Presidential earmarks, will applaud his calls for cutting earmarks:

Despite His Rhetoric, President Himself Directs Millions in Presidential Earmarks. “But presidents, including Bush, play the earmark game, too. Bush stuffs his budget with billions for pet projects very much like the ones he attacks when they originate on Capitol Hill, according to taxpayer groups and members of Congress. ‘The president directs 20 times as much spending to special projects than the congress does,’ House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., told The Examiner this week. Democratic House and Senate appropriators point to page after page of specific projects requested by the president in the 2008 spending bills. The actual number, according to watchdog groups, is nearly impossible to tally, but Senate Democrats recently pointed to hundreds, including 580 worth $15.6 billion that Bush included in his appropriation request for military construction and veterans affairs.” [Washington Examiner, 11/15/07]

Senator Byrd Said President Bush Asked for Over $20 Billion in Presidential Earmarks. “Through the 11 committee reports, we have identified over 5,700 earmarks, totaling about $28 billion. Of the $28 billion in earmarks, over $23 billion, or over 80 percent of the earmarks, was requested by the President. Now, let me say that once again, please. Through the 11 committee reports, we have identified over 5,700 earmarks, totaling about $28 billion. Of the $28 billion in earmarks, over $23 billion, or over 80 percent of the earmarks, was requested by the President–the President of the United States, President Bush.” [Sen. Byrd Floor Speech, 8/2/07]

We wonder if earmark-happy Republicans applaud when President Bush calls for cutting earmarks:

Senate’s Two Biggest Earmarkers Were Republican Senators Cochran and Stevens, Who Secured $773 Million and $502 Million Respectively. “The Senate’s two biggest sponsors of this year’s pet spending projects are Republicans Stevens of Alaska and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, according to preliminary reviews of fiscal 2008 spending bills by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan group. Two of the House’s three biggest claimants of earmarks also are Republicans: Bill Young of Florida and Jerry Lewis of California, the group found… Stevens and Cochran retain their earmarking clout even in the minority. Cochran sponsored $773 million in current earmarks, while Stevens claimed $502 million, according to the Taxpayers for Common Sense unofficial tally.” [Associated Press, 12/20/07]

Senator Mitch McConnell Press Release Headline: “McConnell Secures Over $14 Million for Kentucky Projects in Senate-Passed Transportation Bill.”  Senator McConnell’s press release stated: “U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell – a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee – obtained $14.25 million in funding for Kentucky projects in the FY ’08 Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.” [Sen. McConnell News Release, 9/12/07]           

Senator Jon Kyl Earmarked Taxpayer Dollars from Foreign Operations Funding Bill for Local Drainage Repair.  Kyl placed a $400,000 earmark into the Department of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, leaving open the possibility for that number to increase as the Nogales Wash, Ariz., drainage problems become more clear.  His press release reported: “The U.S. Senate adopted a measure late Thursday that will provide $400,000 for the repair of a damaged drainage channel in Nogales, Arizona. U.S. Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the author of the measure, acknowledges that the amount will simply serve as a placeholder until the exact cost of a more permanent repair of the channel is assessed.” [Sen. Kyl News Release, 9/7/07]

Senator Lamar Alexander Touted $12 Million for Tennessee Projects in Senate’s Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill.  Senator Alexander enthusiastically announced millions of federal dollars going into a port, an airport and state roads – all coming from the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.  His news release stated: “U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) announced that today’s Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2008 Transportation, Treasury, and Housing & Urban Development (HUD) appropriations bill will provide a financial boost for several Tennessee transportation and economic development initiatives.” [Sen. Alexander News Release, 9/12/07]

Senator Hutchison Included $10 Million Earmark for Rio Grande Project in State Department Funding Bill.  The Texas senator added the $10 million earmark to the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.  Her news release announced: “U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today secured $10 million for the Rio Grande Flood Control System Rehabilitation Project as H.R. 2764, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill passed the full Senate…” [Sen. Bailey-Hutchison, 9/6/07]

New Hampshire Senators Gregg and Sununu Welcomed $4 Million for Wilcox Industries.  Senators Gregg and Sununu announced the approval of a Senate funding bill which included $4 million for the Wilcox Industries Corporation in Newington.  A press release mentioned, “The measure includes $4 million for the production of a helmet mounted video recording system to provide a versatile and ergonomic capability for Naval Special Warfare operators to record date and disseminate intelligence” [Sen. Gregg and Sununu Press Release, 10/4/07]

Senator Gregg Applauded Senate Approval of $5 Million for the Great Bay Resource Protection Partnership.  In the Fiscal Year 2008 Appropriations bill, Senator Gregg included $5 million in funding for the Great Bay.  A press release said, “Senator Gregg, who has secured $50 million in federal funds for the Partnership since 1997, stated, ‘The Great Bay is one of the most extraordinary environmental resources in our state and ensuring its protection is critical.’” [Sen. Gregg Press Release, 10/17/07]