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. Seeing the light

    What about a united front? This is like shooting your party in the foot! This is no time for squabbling.

    January 27, 2011 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  2. Kevin

    I agree with Obama on this. The issue isn't whether the money is going to be spent or not..or who spends it (president or Congress.) The issue is, with earmarks it is much easier to spend money have wastefully spending..and to repay political donors or others connnected with politics......than it is if you eliminate earmarks.
    Get rid of earmarks. It won't get rid of corrupt spending, but it will make it a bit harder.

    January 27, 2011 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  3. VietVet

    Harry Dufus hasn't figured it out yet has he?

    January 27, 2011 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  4. Roberta Steinmetz

    Power grab? Really? Last time I looked, the purpose of the balance of power was to see to it that no branch of government did its job without controls. Therefore, Mr. Reid, the President's vow to veto any bill with earmarks is him DOING HIS JOB, not infringing on yours. I am a Democrat, but maybe the Senate needs to read the Constitution, too.

    January 27, 2011 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  5. Sidewinder

    Earmarks make up such a minute fraction of the budget that it's laughable. They don't even add to the budget, it's just a method for politicians to get projects done in their districts. This is just smoke and mirrors to mask the real budget issues. Total earmarks for 2009 accounted for less than 1% of the budget, and had they not been there, the budget would have been the same.

    January 27, 2011 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  6. eric

    Harry needs to take some political science classes to find out how the three branches of government work. It's called Checks and Balances.

    If congress write legislation that the President doesn't support, then the President has the RIGHT to veto the bill. Presidents often give Congress warning that they will veto any legislation that does/doesn't include X. If Harry thinks he can get enough votes to overcome a veto, then they can write as many earmarks as they want. However, I think that the President has finally realized that the public is fed up with government spending, and whether he agrees with it or not, understands that supporting their uncontrolled spending is political suicide. We all have to pay down our debts and live within our means. Why should the government be any different?

    January 27, 2011 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  7. Frank

    This doesn't save any money? Where did this guy get his economics degree? If you spend on things that matter instead of frivilous crap that just goes to make your constituency happy and gets you re-elected, that is saving money in my book. Would you spend money on something you don't need instead of paying your bills? Remember this at election time. We got six more years of this kind of thinking!

    January 27, 2011 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. Whatever

    He just can't handle the President setting the tone, etc. Well Harry this will be your last term unless Angle runs again and even then you may lose!!!!!!

    January 27, 2011 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  9. belinda

    Hi. please talk to reid and let him known that no earmark is a good thing. It corners the market. you might get thing done because earmarks..but everyone else suffers

    January 27, 2011 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  10. blake

    Harry, do you not understand that the American people are sick and tired for pork? Does not matter if there is a Democrat or a Republican in the White House. Eliminate the pork that enters legislation thru earmarks.

    January 27, 2011 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  11. Scott McMurtrie

    So what Harry Reid is really saying is that he has no interest in trying to trim spending and that if the government is going to spend, he is the one that should say what gets funded.

    I am so glad Harry Reid believes the needs in Elko are more important then our children's future.

    January 27, 2011 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. Chris

    this is funny in so many funny, that it's also sad.

    January 27, 2011 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. Patricia Leggett

    Mr Reid, Your effort to keep PORK in the bills passed by the American Congress sounds like you are sitting in the pocket of some hungry lobbiest. Did you vote for that bridge in Alaska? The one that went to NOWHERE!
    Since you are the VOICE of the people you should be happy to get rid of that SORE THROAT that makes our government Policy Makers a laughing stock.

    January 27, 2011 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  14. Dan Arey

    Sounds like a addict who's afraid of where he's going to get his next fix. He deosn't want his drug taken away. Too bad. The people have spoken. They want Earmarks gone. The people will prevail long before Larry Reid kicks the habit, and long after he is gone from any leadership position. Earmarks have clearly distorted Democracy, empowered special interests, and BROKEN Washington (Not to mention breaking the budget and the backs of Middle American taxpayers!) Time to KICK THE HABIT, Reid – whether you want to or not. Call it an INVENTION!

    January 27, 2011 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  15. Brickell Princess

    When will the American people realize that the problem, the source of the problem, is Congress and the fact that Congressional "Representatives" are behaving like kings and queens of the land.

    Not to mention, the fact that the state, counties, and city governments are taxing Americans deeper and deeper into poverty. What has city hall done for you lately?

    January 27, 2011 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  16. wtfreally

    People to Reid: Focus on the country, not lining you and your friends pockets with BS earmarks

    January 27, 2011 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  17. Uncle Eccoli

    Reid's right, what Obama's proposing will never fly, but not because it shouldn't. Making an issue of Congressional earmarks only exposes Members as the cynical crooks they are. Bridges to Nowhere don't go nowhere for the Members responsible – they lead to reelection at the hands of the voters employed building the damned thing (not to mention campaign contributions from construction firms, etc.).

    January 27, 2011 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. Ken

    Get with the program, Reid. Don't make Nevada voters regret having re-elected you to represent them.

    January 27, 2011 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  19. Cpt. America

    Harry Reid is a pompus wind-bag..... He didn't feel the President needed to back off when First Lady Obama was begging the voters to re-elect him, as he had little chance of beating Sharon Angle on his own....

    January 27, 2011 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  20. Bill Garcia

    I guess Sen. Reid thinks the majority of the public are complete morons. The money that is spent as earmarks may or may not be spent. The only reason there are earmarks is so Congress can get what they want . They attach to bills that will get passed and spend money they want to spend that would not be appropriated any other way. Congress is there to balance the power not to control the power. So, Sen. Reid I may be a Democrat and I may not agree with the President on all things but this one I do. Let's say you earmark $1.5M to study the grazing habits of an albino steer. Now that makes damn bit of difference to me or the vast majority of the public. So you take that money and you assign the $1.5M to the VA so ALL VETERANS can receive the benefits, as the President put it, "Earned and Deserve." Yeah you are spending the money anyway but you are spending it on something that REALLY MATTERS. I know I used a ridiculous example but most earmarks are usually ridiculous.

    January 27, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  21. Kevin

    Big suprise! Harry Reid wants to spend money. Based on 2010, the people of Nevada have to the dumbest voters on the face of the earth. With Nancy's help, these two have done more to destroy the country than everyone else combined. Oh wait, Nancy got reelected too....

    January 27, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  22. john

    Dingy HARRY.....get a grip!!! I dont know who is more pathetic....him..or the lefty's who voted for him.

    January 27, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  23. Mike

    Ried is an idiot. Enough said

    January 27, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  24. Steve

    Well, Harry, the lard is getting in somehow, somewhere. Sneeking in junk on the back of otherwise good legislation is precisely what causes the American public to distrust they're elected officials. Instead of defending your right to spend earmarks, why not work with the president on eliminating them?

    January 27, 2011 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  25. Bob in Austin

    Don't back off unless you think you're wrong Mr. President. A job is easier to raplace than a conscious.

    January 27, 2011 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
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