Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Congressional Secrecy & Corruption

Email from Senator DeMint:

The Senate will likely vote tomorrow on Sen. DeMint's amendment to the Defense Authorization bill. The amendment strikes Section 1002 that incorporates all of the secret earmarks written in committee reports, giving them the force of law even though they are not in the bill, not debated, not voted on, and not signed into law.

This "incorporation language" must be stopped.

- It effectively reverses the President's Executive Order that Porkbusters pushed him to issue, which aims to stop secret, non-legislative earmarks dead in their tracks.

- It forces agencies to make funding decisions based on the instructions they get from committee staff who author these reports rather than on merit.

- It prevents Congress from debating and voting on earmarks, which is the only true form of transparency and accountability.

- It sets a dangerous precedent that will be repeated if it is not challenged and stopped.

Please also note that the GOP earmark reform task force created by Sen. McConnell recommended that all earmarks be written into our bills. That's what the Constitution requires. The vote tomorrow on DeMint's amendment will test Republican support for this principle.

If the amendment is adopted, the earmarks in the reports will become what Sen. Durbin famously described as just a "note to your sister" and will not be legally binding. Instead, government agencies will be able to spend these taxpayer funds on true national priorities, not special interest politics.

Glenn Reynolds:
If people want appropriations for their pet projects, it seems to me they should have to ask for them publicly, have them reviewed through the usual channels, and have them voted for. Is that asking too much? Apparently. But efforts at putting secret earmarks through are likely to play badly right now, with the federal government already facing financial strain from bailing out corrupt, politically-connected entities like Fannie Mae.

I also notice that the press seemed a bit quicker to pick up on these earmark stories back when the GOP controlled Congress . . . .
I certainly hope earmarking will play badly these days. I think it should be regarded as unconstitutional for Congress to "act" without actually writing legislation for review by all members of Congress, much less by the public. And, if earmarking can't be seen as unconstitutional, then surely secrecy in spending decisions should suggest that our Congress is corrupt.

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