Senate Appropriations Committee Bans Earmarks

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 1 2011 2:29 PM

Senate Appropriations Committee Bans Earmarks

The Senate Appropriations Committee has announced a "moratorium on earmarks for the current session of Congress." This is a very clear win for conservatives. Even if it was made inevitable by President Obama's State of the Union promise to veto any bills with earmarks, it contravenes the wishes of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has warned that an earmark ban takes constitutional power away from Congress.

The statement from Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii:

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I continue to support the Constitutional right of members of Congress to direct investments to their states and districts under the fiscally responsible and transparent earmarking process that we have established.    

However, the handwriting is clearly on the wall. The President has stated unequivocally that he will veto any legislation containing earmarks, and the House will not pass any bills that contain them. Given the reality before us, it makes no sense to accept earmark requests that have no chance of being enacted into law.    

The Appropriations Committee will thoroughly review its earmark policy to ensure that every member has a precise definition of what constitutes an earmark. To that end, we will send each member a letter with the interpretation of Rule XLIV (44) that will be used by the Committee. If any member submits a request that is an earmark as defined by that rule, we will respectfully return the request.    

Next year, when the consequences of this decision are fully understood by the members of this body, we will most certainly revisit this issue and explore ways to improve the earmarking process.  At the appropriate time, I will once again urge the Senate to consider a transparent and fair earmark process that protects our rights as legislators to answer the petitions of our constituents, regardless of what the President or some Federal bureaucrat thinks is right.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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