GOP, Democrats Trade Jibes on Earmark Reform

Posted January 29, 2008 at 6:42pm

Republicans kept up the drum beat on earmark reform Tuesday, hammering Democrats to answer their challenge to join in a temporary moratorium on the controversial Member-directed spending while the issue is studied.

Democrats, meanwhile, continued to call Republicans hypocritical for only now embracing the earmark reform mantle, though they offered few details on how they might address the GOP’s challenge.

They argue that the number of earmarks rose sharply while the GOP was in the majority and also point to reforms they made to the earmark process after taking control of Congress last year.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that the party is considering how to proceed on the issue.

“We are discussing next steps,” Hoyer said.

He added that Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) is leading that effort, but declined to give further details of Democratic plans.

The Wisconsin lawmaker refused to comment on Hoyer’s remarks, but criticized calls by President Bush in his State of the Union address for Congress to further reduce earmarks. Obey also criticized Bush’s State of the Union statement that he would issue an executive order to federal agencies to ignore earmarks included in committee reports accompanying spending bills.

“It’s a joke for George Bush. George Bush has probably signed bills containing more earmarks than all other presidents combined,” a visibly agitated Obey said. “This guy has suddenly discovered his ‘vision’ thing.”

“That’s my only comment,” Obey added.

All of the top three Republican leaders used their weekly news conferences with reporters on Tuesday to press Democrats for an answer to their challenge, which was issued late last week.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he expected to get an answer by the end of the week.

“We’re anxiously awaiting their response,” GOP Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.) said.

Meanwhile, Republicans also indicated that they may soon use legislative hijinks to draw more attention to the earmark issue if Democrats don’t respond to their challenge.

During floor debate on the New England National Scenic Trail Designation Act Tuesday afternoon, House Rules ranking member David Dreier (R-Calif.) urged Members to use a procedural motion in an effort to draw attention to a resolution sponsored by Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) that calls for even greater transparency of earmark requests.