February 15, 2008

A Fumble On Earmark Reform

I've written several posts about the opening on the House Appropriations Committee that came from Rep. Roger Wicker's (R-MS) appointment to the Senate to fill Trent Lott's open seat. The House GOP had an opportunity to ensure that their commitment to end pork-barrel spending got taken seriously by appointing a porkbuster to the post. Jeff Flake would have delivered that message, as his record on earmark reform is unmistakable.

Instead, the GOP selected Jo Bonner (R-AL), a person whose record on pork reform equals that of ... Steny Hoyer, John Doolittle, and James Moran:

Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) has been selected to fill the appropriations panel seat vacated by ex-Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), several GOP sources said Thursday.

GOP leaders faced a pool of seven House lawmakers, including the chairman of the House campaign committee who ran against two politically vulnerable members, and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who was backed by the anti-earmark community and conservative blogs.

Bonner’s selection is a safe move, given his membership in the conservative Republican Study Committee and that he is filling a seat vacated by a fellow southerner.

Bonner has a 2% rating from the Club for Growth on its RePork Card. That means that Bonner voted for 1 out of 50 pork reform bills in 2007. Bonner is no stranger to earmarking. While totals are difficult to come by, thanks to the 110th Congress' rulebreaking on earmark transparency,he has at least $4.5 million in earmarks in the defense bill and a half-million in the Labor/HHS/Education appropriation as well.

House Majority Leader John Boehner noted that Bonner supports a moratorium on earmarks, as well as the unilateral reforms that the GOP caucus has promulgated for this year's budget process. The moratorium only comes into effect, however, if the Democrats agree to it. Except for a high-profile endorsement from the very liberal Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Democrats have taken a pass. The House Republican caucus has rejected a unilateral moratorium, which leaves Bonner free to pursue earmarks -- and worse, keeps a real watchdog off of the Appropriations panel.

The House GOP caucus has a tough election year ahead. If they want a message that gives voters a reason to vote for Republicans rather than just against Democrats, they could do a lot worse than to campaign on ending the source of personal corruption on Capitol Hill. That will take real risk and real courage by unilaterally declaring that the Republican Party will no longer participate in the earmarking process that buys contributors and illegitimately extends federal power, and in appointing activists to key positions to make sure that earmarks get opposed all the way through the process.

They could win with these kinds of bold moves. The half-measures they have offered thus far will not impress enough people to carry them to victory. The appointment of Jo Bonner doesn't even qualify as a half-measure, but looks like business as usual.

UPDATE: Others commenting on this fumblaya:

Mark Tapscott
Andy Roth
Rob Neppell
Tim Phillips


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