House Democrats, clearly feeling the heat from dissatisfied and very angry voters, tried to put a populist fig leaf on the naked earmarking that has plagued the budget process for over a decade. Their ploy, introduced yesterday, would end all earmarks given to for profit companies.
WASHINGTON — House Democratic leaders on Wednesday banned budget earmarks to private industry, ending a practice that has steered billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to companies and set off corruption scandals.
The ban is the most forceful step yet in a three-year effort in Congress to curb abuses in the use of earmarks, which allow individual lawmakers to award financing for pet projects to groups and businesses, many of them campaign donors.
However, Republicans immediately raised the stakes and proposed a ban on all earmarks:
A day after House Democrats announced a ban on earmarks for private companies, their Republican counterparts hope to dramatically up the ante with a unilateral prohibition on all targeted spending projects.
If approved, the Republican policy would restrict GOP lawmakers from sponsoring any earmarks at all — broadening the Democratic ban to cover earmarks for nonprofit entities and tax and tariff breaks approved through the Ways and Means Committee.
“When Republicans take back the House, we will rein in out-of-control federal spending and bring fundamental change to the process by which Congress spends American taxpayers’ money,” according to a statement from Republican leaders.
The minority is eager to protect what it views as a potent political advantage over Democrats on spending. And many — including an apparently united GOP leadership — are rallying behind the effort to one-up the Democrats on earmarks.
Life after Murtha is taking an interesting turn in the House. And for anyone that questioned the impact of the Tea Party movement these proposals should put all doubts to rest. Washington is running scared on the spending issue and clearly wants to stay ahead of the pitchforks.