[NOTE: pork-barrel spending/earmarks are when a member of Congres adds funding onto an unrelated spending bill for a specific project (in his/her home state) that benefits voters in that state in order to become more popular with them in an effort to win re-election]
(by Andrew Taylor, YahooNews.com) AP, WASHINGTON – … With the incoming House GOP majority dead set against earmarks,… defenders… – mostly Democrats but with a few Republicans mixed in – are swimming against a powerful tide.
Earmarking allows lawmakers to steer federal spending to pet projects in their states and districts. Earmarks take many forms. They can be road projects, improvements to home district military bases, sewer projects, [and] economic development projects. [Two projects that raised public outcry when they became known were $50,000,000 for an indoor rainforest in Iowa and $500,000 for a teapot museum in North Carolina.] …
Read about specific earmarks in 2010 spending bills at CAGW.org. [Scroll down for specific earmarks.]
The reason [Congress] has churned out so many pork-barrel projects so successfully for so long is pretty simple: Everybody did it, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.
Critics like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and incoming House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have railed against earmarks for years. [Boehner has never sought an earmark.]… [Long-time earmark foe Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.Carolina, offered the moratorium, along with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, and 12 other Republican senators. Sources say it is identical to an earmark ban expected to be approved in the House.]
Boehner promises that next year’s spending bills won’t have earmarks. The opinion of House Democrats doesn’t matter much since they’ll be stripped of most of their power under a Boehner-led regime.
But it was Monday’s surprise announcement by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in support of a two-year moratorium on earmarks that fundamentally shifted the paradigm. Until then, McConnell had been a strong defender of the practice. Banning earmarks wouldn’t save money and would shift too much power to Obama, McConnell said in the days after the midterm congressional elections.
Despite deep misgivings among many old-timers, Republican senators followed McConnell’s lead and endorsed a nonbinding moratorium on earmarks Tuesday evening by a voice vote in a closed meeting.
Earmark critics want to go further and are demanding a vote by the entire Senate to ban them for three years.
The move by the Senate GOP leaves Senate Democrats as the only faction of Congress in a position to try to save the practice – and their position doesn’t seem very strong, since it’s difficult to see how Boehner and McConnell would allow any earmark-laden bills to pass.
Thus far, however, some Senate Democrats seem to be in denial.
“I have an obligation to the people of Nevada to do what is important to Nevada, not what is important to some bureaucrat down here (in Washington) with green eyeshades,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. “So I am not going, personally, going to back off of bringing stuff back to Nevada.” …
Estimates vary, but earmarks went from more than 1,300 projects worth nearly $8 billion in 1994 to a peak of nearly 14,000 projects worth more than $27 billion in 2005, according to Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group that opposes the practice. …
The new Senate moratorium is a nonbinding statement. It doesn’t outright block a lawmaker from seeking an earmark, and some GOP senators have said they still will try to find a way to win them.
Copyright ©2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. The information contained in this AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Visit news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_earmark_ban for the original post.
**Earmarks – Pork-barrel, or ear-mark spending is a process by which congressmen add expenses for special projects onto important legislation that have nothing to do with the legislation to earn favor from voters in their states. Adding the expenses onto legislation that needs to get passed ensures that it will pass through Congress easily. The added expenses are used for special projects for Members of Congress to distribute to their constituents back home as an act of largesse, courtesy of the federal taxpayer.
1. Name the four Republican senators mentioned in the article who have led the fight to ban earmarks in Congress.
2. Conservative Republicans have won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. How is the House expected to vote on a ban on earmarks?
3. a) Define moratorium and nonbinding as used in paragraphs 6 & 7.
b) What does it mean that the Republican senators endorsed a nonbinding moratorium on earmarks?
4. How has Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reacted to the Republicans’ moratorium on earmarks?
5. List by how much the number of earmarks and their total cost increased from 1994 to 2005.
6. a) Para. 8 states: “Earmark critics want to go further and are demanding a vote by the entire Senate to ban them for three years.”
Ask a parent if he/she supports a vote by the entire Senate (Democrats and Republicans), not just Republicans on whether or not to ban earmarks for three years and to explain his/her answer to you.
b) Has your parent changed your opinion on this issue? Explain your answer.
CHALLENGE QUESTION: Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, the only Republican to vote against the moratorium, said he supports earmarks because the amount of money spent on earmarks is so small that it won’t make much difference in the budget, and if the Senators don’t spend the money, President Obama will. Why is this false reasoning?
OPTIONAL: Send an email to your Senators and Representative expressing your support for, or opposition to, earmark spending, and whether you think the entire Senate should vote on a ban. Be clear, concise and polite. Include your name and grade and the name of your school. (Find contact information at Senate.gov and House.gov.)
EARMARKS/PORK BARREL SPENDING
- Pork-barrel, or ear-mark spending is a process by which congressmen add expenses for special projects onto important legislation that have nothing to do with the legislation to earn favor from voters in their states. Adding the expenses onto legislation that needs to get passed ensures that it will pass through Congress easily. The added expenses are used for special projects for members of Congress to distribute to their constituents back home as an act of generosity, courtesy of the federal taxpayer. Congressmen use ear-marks as a way to get re-elected; to stay popular in their home districts.
- An appropriation is defined as a legislative act authorizing the expenditure of a designated amount of public funds for a specific purpose.
- The purpose of the Senate Appropriations Committee is to control the appropriations process, as well as to ensure better management of Government spending by giving one committee the sole responsibility to examine executive agency budget estimates.
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