March 10th, 2010
05:46 PM ET
4 years ago

House Dems plan ban on earmarks for for-profits

 House Democrats said Wednesday they will ban earmarks directed to for-profit companies.
House Democrats said Wednesday they will ban earmarks directed to for-profit companies.

Washington (CNN) - House Democrats said Wednesday they will ban earmarks
directed to for-profit companies.

The move, announced by the Appropriations Committee and its Defense subcommittee, would apply to government spending bills Congress is considering for next year. But the committee said in a written statement the new rules are also "intended to become a long term proposition."

Out the door will be earmarks directed to private firms, many of them military contractors who frequently obtain multi-million dollar, no-bid contracts through the process. Instead, those companies will be allowed to
apply directly for funding to the Defense Department, which will decide what projects it wants to fund.

Defense earmarks include research proposals, systems upgrades and equipment production.

The Appropriations Committee said the earmark restrictions would have prohibited 1,000 earmarks this year, amounting to $1.7 billion.

In addition to the ban on earmarks aimed at for-profit businesses, the Appropriations Committee said it plans greater oversight of earmarks going to non-profits, directing executive agencies to audit 5 percent of all of those earmarks to make sure they are, in fact, being used as intended.

"Earmarks" refer to federal funding designated for particular projects, with taxpayer money allocated by members of Congress to home-state and home-district projects, often with an eye toward re-election.

But such earmarks bring money into a congressman's district - feeding jobs, road and other projects sought by constituents.

House Democrats added new rules last year requiring members to post their requests online on their own Web sites, but the committee will create a "one stop" link so the public can view all requests for federal dollars.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group that tracks earmark spending, there were 9,500 earmarks this year worth $15.9 billion.

The announcement on earmarks comes as Democrats are contending with stories about ethics violations and public opinion polls showing the public is fed up with excessive Washington spending. In recent years members of both parties have come under fire for accepting millions in campaign contributions from lobbyists pushing for earmarks for their for-profit clients.

In an effort not to be outdone by the Democrats, House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said that the House GOP will meet on Thursday to talk about banning all earmarks.

"Clearly our members have some strong feelings on this, but I think it's time for our conference to sit down and have a real adult conversation about whether we're really willing to do what's necessary to come all the way back," Boehner said.

Boehner, who does not request earmarks and made such reforms a cornerstone of his campaign for the leadership, told reporters that the GOP proposal would go further than the Democrats' plan. "There's no way to be half pregnant on this issue," he said.

Reforming the spending process on Capitol Hill is historically a contentious issue for both Democrats and Republicans. Previous efforts by Boehner to get his GOP colleagues to refrain from requesting pet projects for
their districts have failed. And votes on the House floor to stop the practice of setting aside money for individual members' districts have fallen short, with members of both parties arguing that it's part of their responsibility to bring home federal money for local needs.

Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wisconsin, has defended the prerogative of Congress to allocate such spending, saying on the House floor as recently as February 2009, "The fact is without the earmarking process, the White House and its anonymous bureaucrats would make every single spending decision in government."

House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence, who in recent years pledged not to request any spending, told reporters it's time to respond to calls from the public to cut back on spending. "The American people are sick and tired of business as usual in Washington, D.C., and earmarks have become emblematic of everything that's wrong with government spending," he said.

Pence would not say whether the GOP conference would take a vote on the issue on Thursday, but the deadline for members requesting earmarks is later this month. According to rules put in place by House Democrats, members are required to post details on any spending projects they request from the Appropriations Committee online with an explanation justifying the need for the money.

The Democrats' plan has already been applauded by an unlikely ally in the Senate.

"Nancy Pelosi and I don't agree on many things, but if she's willing to take a stand for taxpayers, I'll work with her to put an end to the earmark favor factory," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina. DeMint also pledged to force the Senate to vote on a similar policy some time this week.

But Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, who chairs the Senate spending panel, immediately slammed the House Democrats' earmark plan.

"I don't believe this policy or ceding authority to the Executive Branch on any spending decision is in the best interests of the Congress or the American people. In my view, it does not make sense to discriminate against
for-profit organizations. I am not sure why we should treat for-profit earmarks any differently than non-profit earmarks," Inouye said in a written statement.

Updated: 6:45 p.m.


Filed under: Democrats • House • John Boehner
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Kevin in Ohio

    ALL earmarks should be eliminated.

    And WHY has "profit" become such an evil bad word? Is it because Socialism and Communism are valued by the left?

    Here's the deal, lefties.... if it weren't for capitalism, we would still be driving around in horse and carriages. We'd still be using outhouses in the winter. And we would probably still be blowing out candles every night instead of swicthing off the light switch.

    I guess the liberals don't mind it if that's where their "progress" leads us.

    March 10, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    HAHAHAHA...everyone get your ponchos on...the angry GOPer macaques are 100% guaranteed to start chucking their ideological turds over this. Best part is that it'll be more hypocrisy from them. Well, maybe the best part isn't the hypocrisy itself, but rather watching their mouth-breathing drool-puddle-in-their-laps base nod their heads like pavlovian robots when the GOPers freebase some ideological crack into the wingnut mainline in order to justify trying to block it.

    March 10, 2010 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  3. Bed time for Raygun

    Dont forget to go after all the untaxed money they are hiding in offshore banks.

    March 10, 2010 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  4. Ethan

    Thank you Democratic Party for being the party AGAINST CORRUPTION.

    We swept out the corrupt Republicans in 2006 and 2008 after the Jack Abramoff scandal, and we won't let those corrupt Republicans back.

    March 10, 2010 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  5. Anne P

    Finally....this is what we voted for! Hope it happens!

    March 10, 2010 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  6. Tom

    Doesn't go far enough. The concept of the earmark is so far out there it's a wonder that they are allowed at all. Burying a request for local money deep into a completely unrelated bill, thus assuring that the local Senator or Rep. will vote for it, is borderline corrupt. If a bill cannot pass on it's own merits, than it shouldn't be passed, period.

    March 10, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  7. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    Out of 3.8 trillion dollars, they could have saved $1.7 billion. That's a whole 0.04%. Four percent of one percent.

    That's a joke.

    What's killing us are all the give-aways–Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid–that account for about a third of the budget. And don't even try to claim those give-aways are self-funding–receipts from Social Security and Medicare don't even begin to cover what they cost.

    March 10, 2010 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  8. Victim of GOP Taliban

    Inouye is right. Not all earmarks are bad. Yet there needs to be better way to prevent corruption like Republican Duke Cunnigham taking bribes from defense lobbyists and ending up in prison.

    March 10, 2010 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  9. I WANT MINES

    yea right mmmmhmmm ok of course

    wait till the health care bill hits the voting stage again and we will see the dirty dealings being done to get it passed earmarks is what get these jackoffs re elected do you really think they will ban them? commmeee onnn get real

    WAKE PEOPLE WAKE UP

    March 10, 2010 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  10. Jesus(the Zombie version)

    Oh boy I can't wait to hear my favoraite right wing losers spin this.

    See how Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina has pledged his support?

    MARK MY WORDS HE WILL FLIP FLOP, BECAUSE ONCE OBAMA SUPPORTS IT, HE CANNOT.

    It was never about the people, it was always about the party.

    How else would you explain Congress having a hard time with Health Care Reform but was in lock step to send our troops to die in Iraq.

    All the while, they didn't declare war with Iraq, thus negating the responsibility of the deaths of our American soldiers.

    how dare Congress use tax dollars to actually fund US programs. That money belongs to Exxon, Haliburton and Aethna.

    March 10, 2010 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  11. bess

    better yet - ban earmarks altogether.

    what a joke, picking-and-choosing which earmarks to ban.

    March 10, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  12. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    How about banning ALL earmarks? It would at least be a symbolic start to controlling spending.

    March 10, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  13. File under "Sarcasm"

    Wow, 1000 out of the 9000 reported in the stimulus bill or the 3000+ in the defense appropriations bill. Sounds as exciting as Obama's promise to cut spending next year in discretionary programs. We'll have an extra month or two before the country goes broke.

    March 10, 2010 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  14. File under "Sarcasm"

    Don't tell me. I've heard this one before somewhere.

    Oh yeah, it was President Obama promising to veto bills that had ANY earmarks during the campaign.

    March 10, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  15. G

    How about a ban on all earmarks. how about getting rid of the rest of the stimulus spending to save money. how about cutting every government program 7% across the board.

    March 10, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  16. Susie

    I can just hear the right screaming now,"Horrors, we're stripping the defense department....the Democrats are weak on defense...they don't care about your safety!!!" instead of lauding the fiscal responsibility at work here. Wanna bet the right will refuse to vote for this too?

    March 10, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  17. Darth Vadik, CA

    Holy crap, something that actually makes sense in a real world, but is despicable yet again in the Republican world.

    HOW DARE YOU NOT GIVE RICH PEOPLE MORE MONEY (AKA SOCIALISM BTW)? JUST CUT SOME MORE SCHOOL PROGRAMS, OR STUDENT FINANCIAL AID.

    By the way, for you guys who don't get it (AKA Republicans), I was being sarcastic.

    March 10, 2010 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  18. Red by Choice

    Thanks Libs, Lets make sure that any earmarks are directed to the likes of ACORN. Why not ban ALL earmarks?

    March 10, 2010 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  19. Ken

    Why would anyone believe them? Remember Obama promising no earmarks before passing his budget with the greatest number of earmarks ever? Don't watch what they say. Watch what they do.

    March 10, 2010 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  20. Obama the Arrogant Liar

    does that include goon unions , SEIU and Acorn??? Don't think so....Ohhh..i forgot the teacher unions.

    March 10, 2010 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  21. m smith

    way to go !!!. It's about time we start to reign in this type of spending. And of course the democrats are leading the way .

    March 10, 2010 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  22. U.S. Common Sense

    Here's a radical idea: How about we just ban earmarks all together? If a pet project is so important to be funded by the US, draft a bill for it and submit it for a vote. Don't try to attach it as a rider to something else.

    March 10, 2010 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  23. voter

    good, but I like the senate bill that is being introduced to decrease congressional salaries by 5%. It should be more considering they are doing nothing.

    March 10, 2010 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |