were supposed to be a thing of the past for Republicans after
allegations of corruption cost the GOP control of Congress in 2006.
Throughout 2007, Republicans acknowledged repeatedly that straying from
principles had hurt them dearly. But changing their profligate ways
proved difficult: Just 14 Senate Republicans voted against the pork-laden omnibus spending bill this month.
2008 on the horizon and President Bush heading into the final year of
his presidency, here's one New Year's resolution all Republicans ought
to make: We'll shut down the favor factory that churns out earmarks.
This year's $555 billion omnibus spending bill
won approval just two days after it was introduced. This modest
document ran more than 3,400 pages, so lawmakers hardly had time to
read the bill, let alone comprehend its nearly 10,000 earmarks. The
earmarks alone stand to cost taxpayers at least $7.5 billion.
many Senate Republicans unwilling to make a stand, fiscal conservatives
are now pinning their hopes on President Bush. Even though he signed
the omnibus bill last week, he used the occasion to suggest he might
cancel lawmakers' pork projects. Budget hawks were encouraged.
this year, President Bush and Democratic congressional leaders pledged
to cut the number of pork projects in half -- from the 2005 peak of
13,492 to 6,746," wrote Brian Riedl of The Heritage Foundation. "While Congress brazenly broke its pledge to the American people, the president's hands are not necessarily tied."
has several options at his disposal: canceling non-binding earmarks by
executive order; refusing to implement earmarks that are not
sufficiently specific; and banning "phone-marking." Fiscal
conservatives couldn't ask for a better way to ring in the New Year
than a presidential resolution that tells spendthrift congressional
appropriators "enough is enough."
Any move Bush makes will
almost certainly inspire a backlash from appropriators on Capitol Hill.
Even the Christmas holiday couldn't temper the anger of some
earmark-loving lawmakers who were reportedly lobbying to get the White
House to drop any plans to defund earmarks.
But fiscal conservatives weren't standing by silently. A coalition of 19 government watchdogs released a letter
imploring Bush to issue an executive order directing all federal
agencies to ignore non-legislative earmarks. Bush said the White House
is still reviewing its options, leaving anti-earmark crusaders
cautiously optimistic about their chances.
"In the last
election, congressional leaders ran on a promise that they would reform
earmarks. They made some progress, but not nearly enough," Bush said in
his weekly radio address. "So my administration is reviewing options to address wasteful earmark spending."
the battle plays out at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, it also rages
on the GOP campaign trail. Republican presidential candidate Mitt
Romney called on Bush to "eliminate as many of these earmarks as possible."
Romney's statement came a few days after rival Rudy Giuliani released an ad
condemning earmarks. "The Democrats talked about doing away with
earmarks," Giuliani said in the commercial. "They're now doing as many,
if not more, earmarks as the Republicans did. Let's actually do away
When asked if he would issue an executive order as
president, Mike Huckabee put it this way: "I think some of them ought
to be vetoed. If they can't be vetoed, then ignore them." Huckabee also
vowed to increase transparency. "A lot of things would change if we
knew exactly how the money was spent," he said.
This issue is
nothing new for Sen. John McCain, who has railed against pork-barrel
projects for years. In a statement on the Senate floor, McCain chided
his colleagues for rushing to "issue press releases … about how much
pork we have been able to get for our states and districts." He then
bluntly asked, "How can we, in good conscience, defend this behavior to
the American people?"
The truth is that politicians can't defend
this behavior any longer. Year after year, taxpayers have heard
multitudes from both sides of the aisle talk a good game of fiscal
responsibility and then watched as most fled the field at every
opportunity to block excessive spending.
Now, all eyes are on
the president. This month's events give Bush a new opportunity to send
a strong message. He should use it to bring accountability to the