U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) today said the Senate's Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is another setback for real earmark reform and transparent government. After voting against a motion to proceed to consideration of the WRDA bill, DeMint and Coburn announced they would force another vote on earmark disclosure reform next week.
"Just after the most recent elections, U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, (D-WV) and U.S. Representative David Obey (D-WI), chairman of the respective Senate and House Appropriations Committees, promised the American people that Congress will place a moratorium on all earmarks until a reformed process is put in place,'" Dr. Coburn said. "A reformed process is not in place, yet Congress believes it has the right to continue business-as-usual pork-barrel spending. Sooner or later, repeatedly breaking promises has consequences for the party in control, just as it did for Republicans who believed we could build a governing majority' by appropriating pork for ourselves."
"The Senate voted unanimously for earmark reform but the majority party has repeatedly blocked attempts to enact that reform as an enforceable rule. This bill contains hundreds of new earmarks that were not properly disclosed. Had these new rules been in place, the Senate would not even be able to consider this pork-laden bill," DeMint said.
* The rule passed by the Senate, which is not yet law, requires the names of the sponsors of each earmark to be included in the committee report on the Internet in a searchable format within 48 hours. The report was not made available in a searchable format. Moreover, the Majority party failed to comply with the 48-hour requirement, leaving senators little time to identify egregious spending in the bill.
* The rule also requires the letters from individual senators certifying that they have no financial interest in their earmarks to be posted on the committee's web site. The letters have not been added to the committee's web site.
"The WRDA bill violates the rule we all agreed to in January, and it shows why we need to enact a Senate-wide rule that can be enforced. It is the only way to ensure that every committee chairman fully discloses the earmarks in the bills. It is the only way to avoid a piecemeal approach and to stop business as usual in Washington," said Senator DeMint.
"It is shameful that senators believe they should provide funding for their pet projects before providing funding for our troops," Dr. Coburn added, noting that he questioned why Congress should make WRDA projects such as beach nourishment in San Diego and a new visitors center in Louisiana a priority.
"Congress has no business building a new visitors center in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina victims are still in temporary housing," Dr. Coburn said. "I'm also disappointed this bill calls for beach nourishment in San Diego when cities like Sacramento are at risk of catastrophic flooding because surrounding levees need repair."