GOP to Force Vote on Earmark Freeze

Posted February 6, 2008 at 6:39pm

House Republicans plan to force a vote on their proposal to enact a short-term earmark moratorium during debate today on a higher education authorization bill.

“House Republicans regret Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi’s [D-Calif.] decision to keep the earmark factory open,” said Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). “We need to bring fundamental change to the way Washington spends the American people’s money, but this change cannot begin until the earmarks stop.”

The vote is part of the GOP strategy to reclaim the high ground on fiscal responsibility after the Republicans presided over an explosion of earmarks and debt when they controlled Congress, but the party remains split internally over how hard to push given that the vast bulk of Republicans still want earmarks.

GOP leaders have stopped short of backing a unilateral moratorium that would require Republicans to give up their earmarks even if Democrats continue to get them; they only want a moratorium until new, tougher rules are adopted instead of the yearlong moratorium advocated by the party’s most fiscally conservative Members.

Democrats parried the latest maneuver.

“Parliamentary tactics aside, the Speaker welcomes further constructive dialogue beyond the Democratic-led earmark reforms that cut the price tag nearly in half and required they be made public,” said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami. But Elshami said Pelosi also welcomes “an acknowledgement from Republicans that the earmark abuse that blossomed under their leadership is the tip of the fiscal irresponsibility iceberg that House Democrats are working hard to reverse.”

Other Democrats laughed off the effort.

“House Republicans did jack squat on earmarks for the entire time they were in control,” said a senior Democratic aide. “This is ridiculous. We already had a one-year moratorium on earmarks. We instituted dramatic reform with unprecedented disclosure and transparency.”

Three Republican appropriators, Reps. Jack Kingston (Ga.), Frank Wolf (Va.) and Zach Wamp (Tenn.), have sponsored a bill that would establish an earmark reform panel and halt earmarks until additional reforms are adopted.

So far, 129 Republicans back the bill.