April 3rd, 2009
04:30 PM ET
12 years ago

They're back: Representatives reveal their earmarks

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/03/us.house.senate.budget.passes/art.capitolafternoon.gi.jpg caption="House members have until Saturday night to disclose their earmarks."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Despite President Obama's vow to reign in earmarks - pet projects lawmakers use to divert money to their home districts - it looks like it may be business as usual in Washington.

Three of the top ten earmark recipients from last year have already submitted requests for next year in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Reps. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, Peter Visclosky, D-Indiana, and Ike Skelton, D-Missouri, have requested earmarks totaling more than $320 million.

House members originally had until Friday to submit their earmark requests and the publish them on their individual Web sites as required under Obama's new guidelines. But that date has been moved to Saturday at 5 p.m. ET because the House Appropriations Committee Web site where the requests were to be posted was overwhelmed and running "very slow," a committee staff member told CNN.

Last month, the president signed a $410 billion dollar spending bill - that the White House said was necessary to finish "last year's business" and fund the government through the end of this fiscal year - laden with 8,570 earmarks.

Calling it an "imperfect" bill, he laid out principles to reform future spending bills, including requiring each earmark to be open to scrutiny at public hearings. He also said that any earmark for a non-profit company should be open to competitive bidding, and federal agencies would get 20 days to determine whether a project is worthwhile.

The non-partisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense applauds the transparency of posting the earmarks but contends it is still a flawed process.

"We're not making decisions on basis of priorities or project merits," said Steve Ellis, the group's vice president. "We are spending taxpayer dollars on the basis of raw political muscle and that by definition means we're going to waste money."

Murtha, chairman of the powerful Defense Appropriations subcommittee has submitted 68 earmark requests totaling $134.1 million - less than the $176 million he requested last year.

"I believe that elected representatives of the people understand their constituents and districts best," Murtha wrote on his Web site.

"The responsible application of earmarked funds has widespread benefits for our communities, our state, and our nation," wrote Murtha, who was one of the top earmark recipients in the 2009 budget.

Indiana Democrat Visclosky, another appropriations subcommittee chairman is asking for 56 earmarks totaling $145.6 million, more than the $113 million he sought last year. And Missouri Democrat Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services committee, has submitted 12 earmarks totaling $40.8 million, far less than the $111 million he requested last year.

And it wasn't only the party in power trying to bring some of the pork back home. Virginia Republican Rep. Frank Wolf is asking for only four earmarks but at a total of $92 million, Missouri's Rep. Jo Ann Emerson wants 49 earmarks worth $92.1 million and Idaho's Rep. Mike Simpson has submitted 79 earmarks totaling $156.5.

Wolf, Emerson and Simpson, all members of the House Appropriations Committee, weren't among last year's top ten.

Two Republicans who were - Reps. Bill Young of Florida and Jerry Lewis of California - haven't posted their earmarks yet.

And the top earmark requester in the House last year - now Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, has not yet posted any earmarks for this year.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has not set a deadline for senators to submit and post their earmarks.

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soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. boered1

    Hmm I wonder what definition of earmark we are using?
    A specific project for a specific area? Isn't that the job of a representative to get local project, that are beyond the means of local communities but may have national implication, funded?
    How about something slipped into a bill at the last moment not subject to debate or discussion. But wait these have to be posted so this cannot be it. So and I am sure the radical religious right will have something to say on this, what IS an EARMARK?

    April 3, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  2. Paul H

    Just another way of saying do as I say, not as I do!
    The Indians used to say that the white mad spoke with a forked tongue! Well this can now be said that Obama speaks with one as well.

    April 3, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  3. The Broker.

    So it should do. But the real damage has already been done.

    April 3, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  4. Barbara NY

    I hope that these earmarks will help to bring jobs to these states. As long as people, buisness and organizations can lobby, there will be earmarks.

    April 3, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  5. Frank, Las Vegas

    This time the President will go through requests line by line because it will be his spending bill and not President Bush's spending bill from last year. Those who keep adding on pet projects will have a rude awakening.

    April 3, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  6. Fan of Common Sense


    April 3, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  7. ray ray

    Think Obama will KEEP or BREAK his earmark promise (again)??

    Looks like democrats already know the answer to that question since they're already lining up for mo' money!

    Barack is the democrat ATM. He just keeps spitting out more and more money. He doesn't care where it comes from.... just as long as it buys him votes.

    April 3, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  8. ok, what is an earmark?

    my thought was that it was budgeted money that is set aside for a specific project

    not so bad until the project becomes so specific. like the bridge/road to no where in Alaska or Reid's LA to Las Vegas high speed rail

    it doesn't make sense with todays information why such bad projects continue to get money when we desparately need it else where

    April 3, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  9. MICK in MESA

    For sure these "old school" democraps can be real sneaky when it comes to milking the budget.
    Does this hadfull of village idiots really think that they could slip something into the budget at the last minute and not get caught?
    This advise is good for the rethuglicons as well as the democraps – NO MORE EARMARKS!!

    April 3, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  10. Objective Thinking

    People need to realize that eliminating earmarks doesn't save money–it just lets the Executive Branch have more say in where the money goes.

    First, a bill's total spending size is decided. Then the earmarks are added. The earmarks are allocations of the already agreed-upon amount.

    For example:

    1) A spending bill of $500 billion is drawn up.
    2) Then an earmark of $10 billion is added.
    3) The spending bill's total is now: $500 billion. NOT $510 billion.

    If you eliminate the earmark, the bill is still $500 billion, NOT $490 billion.

    What happens is that earmark takes $10 billion from the $500 billion and allocates it. Then the remaining $490 goes to the Executive Branch for them to decide how to spend it. If you remove the earmark, the bill is still $500 billion and the Executive Branch decides where all $500 billion goes.

    So in conclusion, a $500 billion bill is still $500 billion regardless of how many earmarks are in it.

    April 3, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  11. Marc T

    Correct me if I'm wrong here:

    1) Part of the role in Congress IS to propose federal funding assistance for projects that are somehow strategic or in the best interest of the federal government.
    2) "Earmarks" refers to the main process available to Congress to get this funding. They are attached to other bills to streamline the approval process. It has been said that Congress could never give each project its due process and have them stand alone as separate bills and votes... it would overwhelm Congress.
    3) "Pork" is a term of endearment use by the McCains of the world to identify those earmarks that are "unnecessary" (from their perspective). Some say all earmarks are pork, but most Senators and Representatives think everyone else's is pork, but their earmarks are legitimate.

    The bottom line is that the process needs to change... and it will. But we've used this process for decades and it won't change overnight. Getting the transparency going is a good first step. But I think earmarks and pork are largely misunderstood.

    April 3, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  12. YBM

    So much for Obama's promises. When will you sheeple wake up??? What excuse are you going to give him for this one? He can't blame Bush for it.

    April 3, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  13. Francis, Hawaii

    Don't be another usual politician who says anything to get elected and once elected, forget what you said. Have clear bills and one for earmarks as needed.

    April 3, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  14. pcpeterson

    Spend a little more. Come on, you can do it.

    April 3, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  15. demwit

    The Republicans are doing it too...!!

    April 3, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  16. Bert from Houston, TX

    This is not acceptable. They should not be any earmarks, especially in this economic crisis. President Obama should veto any bill with any future earmarks!!

    April 3, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  17. CA Senior

    What criteria do you use to determine whether to use comments offered by folks who wish to comment? Recently, you have apparently erased all of my comments. They do not even show as being considered by CNN staff. Maybe it is because my comments are influenced by the lack of hope I see for the Republican Party. Or was it my comment that your coverage of S. Palin provides us with so much entertainment?

    April 3, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  18. Texas Annie *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

    What part of this do these Representatives & Senators not understand??

    April 3, 2009 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  19. Jenn, Philadelphia

    I guess we'll see, when this bill eventually makes its way to the President, whether he just talks the talk or will walk the walk as well. If some of those earmarks are wasteful and unnecessary, will he actually veto it.

    April 3, 2009 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  20. No Hillary = No Obama

    With all the mass killings the last month are any of these earmarks focusing on the mental health of the citizens of this country?

    April 3, 2009 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  21. Gary Jaussaud

    Gary's comment is:

    Now lest's see just who has "Ear Marks" and for how much and for
    what. And let the voters deceide what is nessessary and not. Give
    President Obama a chance to watch these guys, and expose them
    to "We The People", and he will, I think we will see "Ear Marks" slow
    way down.

    April 3, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  22. Get Real!!

    So much for CHANGE in Washington! Obama is a joke! He STILL blames President Bush for the position the US is in (even though the Democrats held the majority in congress for the last 2+ years). He has LIED about every campaign promise he ever made – no lobbyists, cut spending, cut earmarks, wouldn't raise taxes on 95% of Americans. BLAH BLAH BLAH!!! The only thing he has done for this country is put us into a deeper hole with his spending bills and his multi TRILLION dollar budget. And the thing that's most perplexing – people still want to bow down and kiss his feet! WAKE UP AMERICA!

    April 3, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  23. RutyYou

    It's about time to tell these earmark HOGS to cool it. Maybe they can give up their salaries so they can have earmarks.

    April 3, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  24. Mike Tierney

    When will we wake up and insist on term limits for these guys? It is people like these that focus on getting seniority so they can screw the system that we need to replace. With term limits, committee heads would be in plasce due to competence not longevity.
    Stop the circus and insist on term limits.

    April 3, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  25. Richard in California

    We need to understand that as President Obama previously stated, "not all earmarks are bad." Stating the total amount that Rep. Murtha put in as earmark requests tells half the story. There are good earmarks and bad earmarks. Monitoring weather patterns and volcanic activity = good earmark. Building a "bridge to nowhere" = bad earmark.

    April 3, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
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