President Obama calls for earmark reform as GOP issues challenge

President Obama called for earmark reform in his weekly radio address to the nation on Saturday.

The commander-in-chief said that Congress needs to curb its use of earmarking funds for pet projects in their districts during a time of economic hardship.

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“I agree with those Republican and Democratic members of Congress who’ve recently said that in these challenging days, we can’t afford what are called earmarks,” the president said.

The president encouraged reforming the process, but stopped short of calling for an all-out ban on earmarks.

On Friday evening, top-ranking House Republicans appeared to preempt the president's weekly address when they called on Obama to veto any bill that contains earmarks.

"If the President is committed to real earmark reform, he could demonstrate that immediately by agreeing to veto any spending measure this year or next that includes earmarks. Washington has failed to prioritize the way that taxpayer dollars are spent, and shutting down the earmark process is a good first step to begin righting the ship," the Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wrote in a joint statement.

Obama, however, noted that “some of these earmarks support worthy projects in our local communities."

He highlighted his administration’s efforts to make congressional earmarks more transparent but was not explicit in how to reform the earmark process, only saying that Republicans and Democrats should work together to make change.


“We have a chance to advance the interests not of Republicans or Democrats, but of the American people; to put our country on the path of fiscal discipline and responsibility that will lead to a brighter economic future for all. And that’s a future I hope we can reach across party lines to build together,” Obama said.

Speaker-to-be Boehner and House Majority-Leader-to-be Cantor, however, announced that they would hold a vote within the GOP conference to ban all earmarks in the 112th Congress, and called on Obama to urge House Democrats to follow suit.

"Next week the House Republican Conference, including all of our newly elected Members, will vote on a measure that would impose an immediate ban on earmarks at the start of the 112th Congress," they stated, adding that Obama should encourage House Democrats to take a similar vote among their caucus.

Boehner and Cantor called earmarks "a symbol of a dysfunctional Congress" that "serve as a fuel line for the culture of spending that has dominated Washington for too long."