President Barack Obama said he will crack down on future spending for congressional pet projects before signing an “imperfect” $410 billion spending measure stuffed with thousands of them. ... The legislation includes almost $8 billion sought by lawmakers for about 8,500 pet projects, according to a tally by the Washington-based Taxpayers for Common Sense. Among them were $1.8 million for swine odor and manure management research in Iowa, $2 million to promote astronomy in Hawaii and $381,000 for music programs at New York City's Lincoln Center.
How about $trillions earmarked for Obama's Wall Street handlers?
Obama called the awarding of earmarks for private companies "the single-most corrupting element of this practice" and said that funding for such projects should be evaluated with a higher level of scrutiny and subject to the same competitive bidding process as federal contracts.
Obama Signs Spending Bill as He Seeks Earmarks Curb (Update3)
By Roger Runningen and Julianna Goldman
March 11 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said he will crack down on future spending for congressional pet projects before signing an “imperfect” $410 billion spending measure stuffed with thousands of them.
The president took aim at the contents of legislation, known as an omnibus bill, which is needed to run most government operations through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. He’s bypassing a fight with Congress over so-called earmarks in the bill by setting guidelines for future legislation.
“This piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability that the American people have every right to expect and demand,” Obama said today at the White House.
The legislation includes almost $8 billion sought by lawmakers for about 8,500 pet projects, according to a tally by the Washington-based Taxpayers for Common Sense. Among them were $1.8 million for swine odor and manure management research in Iowa, $2 million to promote astronomy in Hawaii and $381,000 for music programs at New York City’s Lincoln Center.
Such spending put the administration on the defensive after Obama campaigned against earmarks during the presidential race and promised to go through each money bill line-by-line to eliminate them. Some Republicans, including Arizona Senator John McCain, the party’s presidential nominee in the 2008 election, said Obama should have vetoed the spending bill, which was left over from the last session of Congress.
The president’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said Obama didn’t want to engage Congress in a fight over “last year’s business.”
Obama signed the spending measure later at the White House.
While saying he didn’t want to eliminate earmarks outright, Obama today outlined several principles he said would prevent future abuse of the process. Above all, he said, earmarks should have a “legitimate and worthy public purpose” and be subject to public scrutiny. He called on Congress to enact the revisions this year to guide appropriations.
The president asked lawmakers to post earmarks in advance on their Web sites for public examination and said members of Congress should justify the projects at public hearings.
Obama called the awarding of earmarks for private companies “the single most corrupting element of this practice” and said funding for such projects should be evaluated with a higher level of scrutiny and subject to the same competitive bidding process as federal contracts.
“When somebody is allocating money to those public entities, there is some confidence that there is going to be a public purpose,” Obama said, referring to such organizations as schools, fire departments and police stations. “When they are given to private entities, you’ve got potential problems.”
He pledged that his administration would work with Congress to eliminate pet projects if they’re determined to have “no legitimate public purpose.”
The president said earmarks, if “done right,” allow lawmakers to direct federal money to worthwhile projects in their districts.
“I recognize that Congress has the power of the purse,” Obama said. “As a former senator, I believe that individual members of Congress understand their districts best.”
“But leadership requires setting an example and setting priorities,” he said.
Obama’s statement followed an announcement by the House Appropriations Committee that any future earmarks set aside for businesses will have to be subject to competitive bidding. The new rules also require lawmakers to give the White House 20 days to review their earmark requests.
“This amended and reformed process will provide the most open and transparent process for any legislative action in the history of the Congress,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat.
Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican and a persistent critic of earmarking, said he was skeptical it would stop special-project spending. Lawmakers could get around the rules by devising purchasing requirements for agencies so that only a single company would qualify, he said.
Senate Democratic leaders issued a statement that declined to endorse the House plan. The statement said, “We look forward to working with President Obama and our colleagues in Congress to explore additional reforms.”