Reid to Obama: 'Back off' on earmarks
January 27th, 2011
12:41 PM ET
12 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, 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. Joe Dahl

    This sounds like he doesnt like the idea of checks and balances. The president has the power to veto for a reason. I would say congress hasn't done a good job recently spending money from the shape that our country has is in.

    January 27, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  2. Denizen Kate

    The president made that promise in response to the overwhelming majority of Americans who want government to stop wasting our hard-earned tax dollars. If we don't understand the true nature of earmarks, as Reid suggests, whose fault is that?

    January 27, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. Preston

    Considering Sen. Reid's tenuous hold on power, he really should be more respectful of the President. Mr. Obama is responsible for all Americans. Senators and representatives have a much narrower constituency. Frankly, I have no interest in sending my hard-earned tax dollars to Nevada and other taker states, when the nation's needs are so enormous.

    January 27, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  4. scott powell

    This is the problem with democrats and d.c. why does the money have to be spent one way or another? Why can't they just leave their hands off our money!?

    January 27, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  5. Ben Franklin

    Dear Harry Reid,

    I have no respect for someone who does not speak to the President with respect, no matter what my personal opinion about the President might be.

    So why don't you "back off" on the attacks and start trying to do some good for the American people huh? You have pretty much squandered your last few terms.....

    Yes I live in your state, and no I did not vote for you.


    January 27, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. BobInIrvine

    Harry, it seems to me that the president doesn't determine where the earmark money will be spent, but rather which earmark money WON'T be spent. And what's this "we'll spend it anyway" B.S.? While I'm a left-leaning Dem, I cannot agree with Reid's plaintive bleats.

    January 27, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. EJAX33

    Way to go Nevada! Good job on reelecting this guy. Last November, most of the country got rid of overspending public officials but you guys kept old Mr. Reid in office. Take a bow Nevada. No wonder your state is a laughingstock to the rest of this country.

    January 27, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  8. tomtheengineer

    ... and like many former boxers, he doesn't know when to pass up a fight.

    Clearly, the public has tired of seeing their hard earned tax money directed, via Mr. Reid's coveted smoke filled rooms, to dubious pet projects in some backwater corner of an influential senators state. Mr. Obama has correctly realized that MUCH of the reason behind the republican gains in the last election was due to this particular dissatisfaction with the way congress works. Mr. Reid's stance in defiance of that reality only serves to illustrate just how incredibly far out of touch he is with the american people.

    January 27, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  9. Justin

    translation : Dear president .. you are messing with my bribe money .. please knock it off so i can get paid by my dirty lobbyist buddies... kthnx Harry.

    January 27, 2011 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  10. Radtech01

    Let the infighting begin. Go get 'em Harry! Rip that party apart! That's what America needs!

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

    I don't think people have a problem with the spending. But it looks really bad, looks frivolous and like a waste when you have spending on a fish hatchery as an earmark to the Health Care law for example. If you want money to go to a fish hatchery project, submit a bill, don't just attach all this crap to something that is totally unrelated.

    Also, don't withhold a vote on something unless you get an earmark or rider attached to a bill. That's ridiculous.

    We understand that money needs to go to things, but do it honestly, do it in plain site, and do it in a way that makes sense.

    Now, obviously, some spending does tick us off. Useless programs, or "pet" projects. Do things that actually benefit the state, and then back it up, honestly and sincerely.

    January 27, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. Bill

    "I know much more what's needed in Elko, Nevada . . . than some bureaucrat does back here." Harry, you ARE the "bureaucrat back here"!! I guess that escapes him, maybe too many punches. If you use that logic, the governor, the mayor, the city council, etc. could – and should – all use that argument with Harry...

    January 27, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  13. Nsain

    As a Nevadan, I can't stand this guy. Everyone I know around me feels the same, yet somehow he was re-elected. The only time he steps foot in this state is when the President comes. Have you even been to Elko Harry?

    January 27, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  14. BQsauce

    I'd rather have those decisions made by one person that can be held accountable rather than hundreds who can't or will simply point blame at the other party. Frankly speaking, Federal funds taken from my tax dollars should be spent on Federal projects, I don't want some Senator from a state I don't care about deciding that my hard earned tax money should be spent on something in Elko, Nevada that doesn't benefit me. Also does he really know what these funds need to be spent on, or will he just use the spending to curry favor with his wealthy constituents and corporate backers?

    January 27, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  15. Publius Novus

    And Reid is correct. The money has already been appropriated, the earmark simply requires that the money be spent as directed by the legislature, rather than as directed by the executive. That is why the whole earmark controversy is a complete red herring. Essentially a distraction from what really needs attention.

    January 27, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  16. EdTx

    The President should have the right to stop earmarks. The Congress does not seem to understand that deficit reduction can and should include earmarks. If the Congress is "controlled" by special interest then the President should not be.

    January 27, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  17. Craig

    Earmarks are a flagrant example of fiscal abuse of our tax dollars and should be banned. Shame on you, Reid!

    January 27, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  18. Lamar

    It is unfortunate President Obama gets bullied enough by the Republicans and their Tea Party sister hood.Now Harry Reid wants to get in the dance as well. Let President Obama do his job.

    January 27, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  19. D Holden

    I think Harry Reed needs to back off and realize that we the people are tired of idiots like him. I understand politicians are voted into office by their local folks – but those same folks made a prety clear statement in the mid term elections. But if Harry wants to stay stupid then maybe the Nevadians will releave him of his job through a real call or in six years toss him on the trash heap.

    January 27, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  20. outawork

    You tell him Harry!!!

    January 27, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  21. mac316

    now all of the sudden you aint his buddy harry? he wants YOUR money now and you dont want to part with it?? how do you think the rest of us feel about paying taxes to you no load loafers in dc??? want to really get under barrys skin??? vote with the tea party or repubs. you and miss nazi pelosi need to ride off into the sunset with your boy rangle

    January 27, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  22. peggie

    I listened to the President in his congressional address, too. If there is a bona fide reason for expenditure submit it as a stand alone item for review and then vote- adding such earmarks to another piece of proposed legislation is an affront to our process. Sneaky, cagey, lazy, expedient, or truly bonafide in public interest- none of these rise to the level of okay with me. I think it is high time that our elcted politicos do their jobs properly. Do it the right way or move aside for those that actually work within correct processes.

    January 27, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  23. Brian in MD

    Obama to Reid: I'm just pretending, of course I want earmarks, the more the better.

    January 27, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  24. Cory N

    Wait...a Democrat grousing about excessive use (abuse?) of power in the Executive Branch of the federal government?

    Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore...

    January 27, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  25. edward

    Typical politician. Too bad he got re-elected

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