Senators seek to recoup ‘orphaned earmarks’

A bipartisan team of senators introduced legislation Monday to rescind funds for so-called “orphaned earmarks”

 The legislation offered by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) would retract earmarks that remain 90 percent or more unused nine years after funds have first been appropriated. Recovered funds would be used to reduce the nation’s deficit.

Both senators said they believe their bill could save between $500 million to $1 billion.

 “With our nation facing a $14 trillion debt, it is critical both parties work together to identify and pass common sense spending cuts,” Coburn said Monday on the Senate floor.

 “As Congress shifts its focus from earmarking to deficit reduction, rescinding funds for orphaned earmarks is an obvious step toward fiscal sanity.”

Coburn said more than $2.5 million in funds earmarked for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta remains unspent. The money cannot be used now that the games have been over for more than a decade.

Begich, who comes from a sparsely populated state that depends on earmarks to fund much of its infrastructure, said he still supports earmarks but that he just wants to apply a “use it or lose it” strategy.