Reid to Obama: 'Back off' on earmarks
January 27th, 2011
12:41 PM ET
3 years ago

Reid to Obama: 'Back off' on earmarks

(CNN) – Freshly reelected to another six-year term, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn’t holding back fire when it comes to his disagreements with President Obama over a ban on earmarks.

“This is an applause line,” the Nevada Democrat told NBC News Wednesday regarding Obama’s pledge not to sign a bill with earmark spending in it. “It’s an effort by the White House to get more power. They have enough power as it is.”

The comments come a day after the president’s State of the Union address, during which he said, “Because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren't larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.”

Reid maintains the president’s pledge will not reduce the deficit but instead seizes power traditionally delegated to the Senate. Most Republicans support the pledge, but several Democrats have also expressed disagreement with the president, noting the money will be spent one way or another.

“The money is going to be spent anyway,” said Reid. “The difference is the White House is going to be directed where its spent, not us. That’s our obligation. This does not save any money.”

According to the nonpartisan fact check.org, the vast majority of earmarks direct federal agencies how to spend their previously-approved budgets, rather than create new spending projects.

Added a visibly frustrated Reid, "I have a constitutional obligation to do congressionally-directed spending. I know much more what's needed in Elko, Nevada . . . than some bureaucrat does back here."

Reid, himself a former boxer who has always been quick with fighting words, added the president needs to “back off” this argument.

“The American public should understand, and I am sure they will as time goes by, that the president has enough power. He should just back off. He’s get enough to do without messing in what we do.”


Filed under: Harry Reid
soundoff (226 Responses)
  1. Mike from MN

    It is simply a way for Obama to put pressure on the GOP to live up to their stupid EARMARK promise. We know full well, that nothing is going to get done in this Congress. All bills will be generated by the GOP House. Now the GOP can't pass any bills because now they can't BRIBE any Dems to support them because the GOP must live up to their stupid EARMAKR promise. So now Obama has a saving grace excuse to reject any GOP bill by simply pointing out the GOP's promise on earmarks. Politics! Gotta love it.

    January 27, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  2. important

    This is the only thing Obama has said that I agree with 100%. These earmarks are corruption, waste and killing our country.
    The idiots that re-elected Reid need to recall this fool.

    January 27, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  3. mac316

    you telling obama to back off is the same as telling the American people to 'BACK THAT THING UP" You want to screw us

    January 27, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  4. Jack

    Mr. Reid misses the point, or perhaps understands it exactly. The whole system of earmarks is corrupt. Holding up a piece of critical legistlation, until a pet project in one Senators state is approved is corrupt. Mr. Reid know full well how many votes he garners by hijacking a bill to appease a power broker in his state. This is a power issue, but one that speaks to abuse of power by the Senate. If they really want to solve the problem than propose a process whereby the Senate evaluates all earmark proposals
    once or twice a year and prioitizes them all in relation to one another. Now that would be some honest work and would provide the president with a clear set of spending priorities. Perhpase Mr. Reid likes the current system of earmarks because he is good at it.
    His objection is a poorly designed play on the "too much government" theme.

    January 27, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  5. go me

    If the ear marks are already coming out of money previously given to these states why do they need to put it in a bill? If reid knows what it needs to be spent on stop wasting time putting it into another bill and do it. Just another redundant use of power that just shows politicians really are useless.

    January 27, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. NC

    Reid is showing his true colors. His attitude is I will do as I please with the taxpayers money.

    January 27, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  7. Eric of Reseda

    And of course this is utter nonsense. MY GOD! If SOMEONE doesn't start "messing" with what Congress does, we're a doomed country! I'd rather an FDR in office ANY DAY. This guy was as close to a King as we've had, i.e., he had more control than most presidents, and his leadership left us the most powerful nation on Earth, militarily and economically. In the years since, especially since the assasination of JFK, we've seen Congress slowly dismantle that power. If Congress wasn't MASSIVELY increasing the deficit under Reagan after it's lowest point since WW2 while during the Carter years, or rubber-stamping further and MASSIVE increases in debt under Bush 1 & 2, or giving carte blanche to an inherently corrupt financial system in the years from Reagan to Clinton to Bush and Obama, and ALL while under the thumb of too many powerful corporate lobbyists, it was thoroughly dropping the ball on issues of immigration, environmental policy, trade, etc. Mr. Reid, I suggest you keep your mouth shut, or the flies will find an apt place to gather and roost.

    January 27, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  8. Ben

    This is the true battle in front of President Obama. He's not fighting off Republicans per se. It's the established "Old Guard" of Congress. The Senators and Representatives that have been doing business the same way for the last 50 years. They are the ones that bow to special interests. They are the ones that are willing to sell America's future to the highest bidder. All so that they can keep their status and wealth. And they are on BOTH sides of the aisle.

    If Americans truly want their country back then these are the people that need to be kicked out of office:
    Harry Reid
    John McCain
    Nancy Pelosi
    John Boehner
    Lindsay Graham
    John Kerry

    New blood is the only thing that will save Congress. But it has to all be done at one time or else the newly elected will become tainted by those that are already corrupt.

    January 27, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  9. JRR

    I don't get it, why so upset?

    January 27, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  10. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The Governors of our States spend government money like drunken sailors and nobody seems to hold them accountable. Then when they are broke, as they are, they want to blame Washington because people are just stupid enough to believe them. Governors in some States have spent money on pottery display on the freeways to the tune of millions, if you don't believe me drive the freeways of Arizona and that's not the only way these Governors steal taxpayers money. Earmarks are no more than a "grease my palm game."

    January 27, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  11. Ron

    This from a man who said taxes are voluntary, why oh why did Nevada reelect this excuse for a peoples representative? He is a complete idiot.

    January 27, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "Reid, himself a former boxer who has always been quick with fighting words, added the president needs to “back off” this argument."

    Just can't help but stretch for that false equivalency, can you CNN? "Back off" is markedly different than "second amerndment remedies" and bullseyes on a map. It's barely even "fighting words"...not to mention that "fighting words" is a phrase with legal significance. Cut the crap.

    January 27, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  13. Mason Williams

    Obama: Please do NOT break your pledge. VETO any and all bills that have ear marks. Keep the people in Congress accountable.

    January 27, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  14. Michael Vossmeyer

    Senator Reid has a valid point in that the federal beauracacy in DC may not know the specific needs in a community in Nevada. But come on Senator, but how much of this largesse is directed at special interests and not at the community in general? President Obama is correct-there has to be transparency, honor and honesty in the legislative process. No more earmarks!! Put the decision up for an open vote-don't bury it in a piece of unrelated legislation.

    January 27, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  15. Spike Bloom

    This guy is pathetic.

    January 27, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  16. Freddy

    family feud. Now Obama has unequivocally pledged to veto earmarks, lets see if he can keep the pledge.
    I do agree with the President, though. Bridges to no where have no place in these austere times (especially as some in Congress, including Reid, support taxing the so called "millionaires" – which would include a family of 6 on 250K annual income)

    January 27, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  17. Richard May

    I think Reid needs to back off on the ear marks –
    Americans are tired of the pork that our elected ninnies are throwing around – it is NOT their money – it is AMERICAN'S TAXPAYER's MONEY!
    I do NOT want another bridge that goes to nowhere being built because some elected official is buddy-buddy with a lobbyist.
    Enough is enough with earmark spending – and Reid needs to learn that!

    January 27, 2011 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. jP Legris

    Interesting that Reid is willing to talk tough with the President, but he tucks his tail and runs when confronted by a republican. Him a boxer? Yeah, right.

    January 27, 2011 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  19. Daniel

    “The American public should understand, and I am sure they will as time goes by, that the president has enough power. He should just back off. He’s get enough to do without messing in what we do.”

    Mr. Reid, I'm sorry, but with the way Congress has been conducting itself, somebody needs to start "messing in what [you] do."

    January 27, 2011 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  20. Freddy

    Squabbling over your tax dollars .. very rich

    January 27, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  21. moore

    Interesting. Are Ear Marks that valuabel to reps? We all understand that get pet project money for local communities is a "bragging" point for reps when they go home. However, there are existing processes in place that allow our reps to process these types of projects outside of adding them to bills that "have to be passed"!

    By adding these pork projects to "must pass bills" the bill themselve become bloated with billions of dallars spent outside the correct aproval processes.

    Reid, if your serious about helping the President and the country, "Back the President" by setting the example by following the rules and processes that are already in place.

    January 27, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  22. tom

    thees guys just don't get it. STOP SPENDING MONEY WE DON'T HAVE.!

    January 27, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  23. Captain1221

    Pathetic...This moron just wants the earmarks so he can dictate which one of his buddies get the money. Our government is pathetic!

    January 27, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  24. Sixoh

    Reid is again showing his idiocy! This is the problem in this country....hands down. His quote "“The money is going to be spent anyway,” says it all! What is WRONG with these people??!!?!?

    January 27, 2011 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  25. gearloose

    I don't get it. If an earmark represents a choice of whether to spend on item A or item B, then why isn't it also a choice to not spend on either A or B? Reid's argument seems to assume that money must be spent. I'd rather it were not spent.

    January 27, 2011 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
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