Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Battle Afoot Over Earmark Cut

“Frankly, one of the reasons I was so supportive of earmarks over the last eight years was it seemed to be the only way to get projects funded,” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), an appropriator who has been among the strongest backers of earmarks. “If we can trust that the administration is going to do the right thing then there is much less need for earmarks and it takes some of the pressure off.”

Obey refused to discuss Obama’s call to slash earmarks.

“I’ve said all I’m going to say,” he said. “You guys can continue to be obsessed with 1 percent of the budget, I’ll worry about the other 99 percent.”

It’s not clear how important Obama considers his commitment to meeting those 1994 levels, although he has gone out of his way to vow that there will be no earmarks in the stimulus package. The item was listed near the bottom of the “ethics” agenda subsection of the White House Web site last week and also was listed on Obama’s Change.gov transition Web site and in his campaign literature, but the item does not say when he would cut earmarks to $7.8 billion a year.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the leading earmark foe in the House, said he was unaware of Obama’s pledge but said it could quickly become one of his first broken promises when the omnibus comes up.

He sent a letter to Obama on Friday appealing to him to keep earmarks out of the omnibus, not just the stimulus package.

“It sends a conflicting message to taxpayers to say that earmarks in the stimulus are unacceptable, but earmarks in the omnibus are okay,” Flake said.

Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, isn’t expecting Obama to slash earmarks to 1994 levels right out of the gate on the omnibus but said Obama could eventually get there if he is serious about doing so.

“If he really wants to achieve this, President Obama is going to have to draw a line in the sand, and that means vetoing legislation,” Ellis said. “At some point he is going to have to rattle Congress’ cage.”

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