Despite ban, earmarks endure in Washington

earmarks graphic sharyl attkisson congress taxpayer money dollars Dec. 15, 2010
earmarks graphic sharyl attkisson congress taxpayer money dollars Dec. 15, 2010

Despite GOP pledges to eliminate 'earmark'-related spending from the federal budget, a new congressional report shows there are $4.8 billion in earmarks contained in a pair of bills funding the government in the short term.

House Republicans eliminated $5.3 billion worth of earmarks in the two stopgap spending bills, USA Today notes. But a report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service found an additional $4.8 billion in earmarks in the two bills, much of them directed toward defense spending.

USA Today quotes Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a fervent earmark foe, saying the existence of the earmarks "sends the wrong message to taxpayers."

"Many in Congress promised taxpayers a full earmark moratorium, not a half moratorium," he said.

$4.1 of the remaining $4.8 million in earmarks were reportedly directed toward defense, military construction and veterans affairs. They were found in a pair of bills - one lasting two weeks, and another three weeks - that have been passed as lawmakers try to work out a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Steve Ellis of the Taxpayers for Common Sense argued in an interview with USA Today that "there's no reason defense earmarks should be sacrosanct."

"In fact," he said, "they're more insidious."

A spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee told the newspaper that House Republicans plan to go after defense earmarks in the future. She pointed out that the GOP had attempted to cut $8.1 billion from the defense budget in a full-year spending bill that failed in the Senate.

Some House Republicans, however, have argued that not all earmarks should be eliminated.

"I did not want the earmarks banned, because I truly believe that there is such a thing as a good earmark," Rep. Bobby Schilling, (R-Ill.) said in remarks at a forum in Moline, Ill. this week.

"I would have probably tried to put an amendment in to where instead of eliminating them, forcing each earmark to be voted on by its merit and merit alone," he told the Quad-City Times.

Among the non-military related earmarks that remained in the bills were those directed toward transportation projects, cancer research and a World War II museum.