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January 16, 2008

A Pushback Against The EO

Some lessons take a while to fully sink into the consciousness, and apparently the lesson of 2006 still hasn't quite finished doing so. Republican as well as Democratic appropriators have flooded the White House with demands that he drop the idea of issuing an executive order to defund the non-legislative earmarks in the omnibus spending bill. Democrats warn of year-long war with the Bush administration, while Republicans complain that they need pork to win elections:

The leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee are calling on President Bush to back away from threats to kill funding for lawmakers’ pet projects.

The pre-emptive warnings from the top Democrat and Republican on the panel are the clearest signs yet that President Bush could face a bipartisan backlash if he uses his executive authority to wipe out the more than $7 billion in earmarks. ....

The executive order would generate enormous support from fiscal hawks, but would roil already poor relations between the White House and the Democratic Congress — not to mention infuriate many Republicans touting the projects to their constituents.

No less than an authority on pork than Senator Robert Byrd (D-Robert Byrd's West Virginia) calls Bush a hypocrite for defunding the earmarks. Byrd points out that Bush didn't issue an EO for Republican budgets, and argues that means he shouldn't do so for Democrats, either. However, that's the pot calling the kettle black. Democrats won the election in 2006 by promising to reform an out-of-control earmarking process, and instead broke the very rules they passed a year ago in airdropping them into conference reports to frustrate transparency.

Republicans aren't covering themselves in glory, either. Thad Cochran (R-MS) has lobbied hard for the White House to respect Congress' work in violating its own ethics rules. Cochran wants to protect the pork by arguing that throwing earmarks into the report language makes legislation more efficient. It also makes it much easier to hide the earmarks and their sponsors, and then to draw lines between the pork and the contributions politicians receive from their beneficiaries.

Congress clearly will not reform itself. Neither party shows any inclination to follow even improved rules that only enhance the transparency of earmarking instead of eliminating it. Indeed, leaders of both parties brag about the efficiency and fairness of opacity and rulebreaking.

When breaking the rules becomes a virtue among Congressional leadership, why should the President choose comity over fiscal responsibility, and collegiality over clean government? Press President Bush to do what Congress' leadership cannot -- end the Capitol Hill pork barbecue. You can make the difference. Call 202-456-1111 and politely explain why the President should issue the EO, or e-mail the staff at


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