GOP skeptical of Dem promise on earmarks

Republicans and taxpayer groups gave tepid praise to the earmark moratorium announced by incoming Appropriations Committee chairmen Monday, but remained skeptical as to whether they will be able to follow through with their promise.

Republicans and taxpayer groups gave tepid praise to the earmark moratorium announced by incoming Appropriations Committee chairmen Monday, but remained skeptical as to whether they will be able to follow through with their promise.

The continuing resolution (CR) passed on Dec. 8 guaranteed funding for federal programs and agencies will stay at 2006 funding levels until Feb. 15. This week’s announcement by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) indicates the CR will continue throughout the remaining months of fiscal year 2007 without any earmarks.

"We welcome the Democrats to the issue of earmark reform," said earmark watchdog Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.). "They have made so many promises."


Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ariz.) echoed Price’s remarks, while also taking a shot at fellow Republicans for failing to curb spending during their tenure.

"If chairmen Obey and Byrd are serious about this, then they deserve some praise. If they’re serious, they’ve managed to do something that Republican spenders have had a hard time doing lately: say ‘no.’ I only hope that they’re serious."

Newly elected Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) said, "It is somewhat refreshing to have the Democratic appropriators on board with what would essentially be the continuing resolution that many of my RSC colleagues have been pushing for weeks."

Hensarling reserved further judgment and said the "true test" of Democratic fiscal responsibility will hinge on how Democrats deal with reform to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The CR will keeping funding levels for 2007 constant — a decrease in funding because of inflation, a prospect that appeals to members of Congress and citizen groups that wish to keep federal spending at a minimum.


David Williams, vice president for policy at the Citizens Against Government Waste, praised the yearlong continuing resolution that was passed last week. However, he too was hesitant to lavish too much praise on the move by Democrats.

"I think this is a great move, a yearlong CR … I hope it shows people that we don’t need a Teapot Museum," he said, referring to some of the pet projects that lawmakers commonly slip into large spending bills for their districts.

He expressed concern that the yearlong CR could result in members of Congress doubling up on projects in the next fiscal year and noted that he was aware the move was not made in the interest of fiscal responsibility.

"They have an agenda that they want to get to immediately when Congress comes back into session," Williams said. "Whatever the cynical reasons … it’s a positive step as long as they don’t double up in 2008.

Steve Ellis, Taxpayers for Common Sense’s vice president for programs, was also skeptical.

"February is a long way away," he said. "We will see what happens at the end of the day."

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) also offered nothing but praise for the Democratic decision and saw it as a victory for those who value responsible spending and believe in earmark control.

" I don’t care who gets the credit," he said in a statement. "In order to reform the way Congress spends taxpayers’ money, earmarks must be fully disclosed and they cannot be secretly added to committee reports or conference agreements. … If an earmark is going to have any legitimacy, it must be written into the text of a bill so we can see it, debate it, and vote on it."

DeMint appealed to the Bush administration to make an official policy to thwart earmarks being attached to a bill when those earmarks have not been written into the bill as a law.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) expressed displeasure with the decision, citing its desire to have the fiscal year 2007 budget completed, but said it would strive to work with Democrats to finish the bills.

"The announcement from the incoming congressional majority is disappointing because we want to work with the new Congress to finish this important work," OMB Director Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBudget process quick fixes: Fixing the wrong problem Why Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump MORE said in a release. "While it is not our preference to have a yearlong continuing resolution, we will certainly work with the agencies and the Congress to ensure there are no major disruptions to essential government services."