"John McCain and I recently delivered a letter to our colleagues announcing our intention to challenge every individual earmark on the floor of the Senate. Many senators, staff and reporters have asked if we are serious. The answer is yes.THE PROBLEM IS US. Yes, I agree with that, at least to an extent. The practice of earmarks seems to me to be a serious abuse of legislative power. The Senator writes: "Pork is a modern indulgence, not an ancient or noble tradition." Of course, earmarks are not a noble tradition, and in my view, they should not be described with a relatively mild term like "indulgence." When an individual member of Congress can designate the specific project and specific recipient that receives government funding, that is an abuse of legislative power.
I am convinced that forcing hundreds or, if necessary, thousands of votes to strike individual earmarks is the only way to produce meaningful results for American taxpayers. Bringing the Senate to a standstill for as long as it takes would be a small price to pay for shutting down what Jack Abramoff described as Congress's 'earmark favor factory.' The battle against pork is crucial. Pork is the root cause of the unholy relationship between some members of Congress, lobbyists and donors. Inside Congress, the pork process is effectively a black market economy: Thousands of instances exist where appropriations are leveraged for fundraising dollars or political capital. It is delusional to claim Congress can redeem its relationship with K Street without eliminating earmarks. The problem is not lobbyists. The problem is us."
But the problem is not just that legislators are choosing to abuse their power. It is also that over time the Supreme Court's view of the Constitution seems to allow Congress to abuse its power. Just take a look at some of the earmarks we've heard about. It seems to me quite a challenge to find the enumerated power in the Constitution for Congress to spend tax dollars on projects like creation of a model rain forest.