Earmark Report Ineffective, Some Republicans Say

Posted March 28, 2009 at 7:52am

House GOP leaders insist their long-promised report on earmark reform is forthcoming, but with most Members having already submitted their requests, any changes would have little or no immediate effect on the practice, Republicans acknowledged Friday. One appropriator, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), said last week that his office planned to file its requests Friday, a week ahead of the April 3 deadline set by the House Appropriations Committee.Kingston added that he expected most Members who are submitting earmarks will have done the same, given the time it takes to sort through requests and make sure they comply with the committee’s rules.Appropriator Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who also sits on the GOP committee charged with producing the report, said earmark reform would likely come up again as floor debate over the annual spending bills inevitably heats up. But he said internal reforms would have to wait until the next fiscal year.“I think it’s dead as far as us doing anything,— Simpson said. “Prior history doesn’t leave me encouraged,— said another member of the earmark panel, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). The Earmark Reform Committee, the 10-member panel created by Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) in December to produce a “gold standard— by which Members could measure their earmark requests, originally intended to release a report in mid-February.Early drafts have been described by GOP sources as a rehash of old policies and an ultimately feckless document since Senate Republicans have little intention of following suit. At one point, several members of the committee reportedly refused to sign a version that they deemed ineffective.A spokesman for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who chairs the committee, said “the process is in motion— and that more information would be available in the coming weeks.Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he anticipated the committee’s findings would be presented to the Republican Conference this week, beating the April 3 deadline. McMorris Rodgers’ office did not confirm his prediction.Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said that while the committee is continuing its work, House Republicans are adhering to reforms they established in the 110th Congress. “All House Republican offices are complying with the enhanced reforms we unilaterally adopted last year, including no more ‘air-dropped’ earmarks and no more ‘monuments to me,’— he said. “We hope that the Speaker and the Democratic leadership will finally join us in adopting these standards and working together on real earmark reform.—House Democrats rejected the Republicans’ 2008 reform effort as a political ploy. Few lawmakers expressed surprise at their leaders’ inability to impose a radical reform structure since Republicans rejected a change to their internal Conference rules in November that would have put project requests on hold for just two months. “I can’t say [the reform effort] was ever alive,— said one pessimistic lawmaker, who requested anonymity.Plans for an earmark moratorium also appear to be on ice for now. Early this month, Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) found himself outnumbered in his push to implement the moratorium at a closed-door meeting of the leadership. Other leaders cautioned against dividing the Conference on the issue, according to sources familiar with the conversation.