Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Political Tone-deafness: Congress kills DOD earmarks report card

From a recent Washington Examiner editorial:
WASHINGTON - Just when it seems members of Congress are finally starting to get the message that people want the earmarks spending party behind closed doors to stop, The Examiner confirms that during the rush to get out of town, a Senate-House conference committee killed a measure designed to shine some much-needed light on the pork routinely stuffed into the Department of Defense spending bill by anonymous senators and representatives.

Twice this year — once for the authorization bill and once for the appropriation bill — the Senate adopted an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to require a DOD spending bill report card making public details of all earmarks and the names of their sponsors. In addition, the Coburn provision required the Pentagon to assign a letter grade ranging from A to F for each earmark, with an F indicating the earmark was of little or no value to the nation’s defense.

But now we learn that a Senate-House conference committee removed the Coburn report card requirement during a closed-door meeting to iron out differences between the two chambers’ Pentagon spending measures. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chaired the Senate conferees for the authorization bill, while Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee. For the appropriations bill, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska., was the Senate chairman and Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., was the House chairman.

It is simply amazing that these conferees, all veteran members of Congress, would be so politically tone-deaf to let the Coburn report card be yanked by the conference session. Surely they remember that one now-former member of Congress sits in a federal penitentiary for accepting bribes in return for earmarks via DOD spending. And have they not seen the growing barrage of negative coverage in recent years as Pentagon earmarks have spiraled from 587 worth $4.2 billion in 1994 to 2,847 worth nearly $9.5 billion this year?.

Total up the Pentagon earmarks for the past three years and it comes to $27 billion. That’s nearly half the emergency supplemental spending approved earlier this year to help pay for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. It is outrageous that any congressman would think that, instead of spending those tax dollars to support our brave men and women in the battlefield, it’s better to spend it on things like $5 million for mood disorder studies, $10 million to expand Stillwater, Pa.’s waste water treatment facilities or $500,000 to support the Arctic Winter Games in Alaska, just to name a few recent examples.

Just before his colleagues left town last week, Coburn extracted a promise from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., that the DOD report card will be reconsidered when Congress returns for its post-election lame-duck session. That such a promise was necessary is anything but encouraging about the prospects for quickly achieving further progress in shining light on how Congress does business.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading this, Rep. Hunter has no business running for president.

Shame on him!

October 30, 2006 at 3:16 PM  

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