Ryan Objects to House Leaders' Broken Promises on Earmark Reform
As the House of Representatives today took up the first of its annual spending bills, Wisconsin's First District Congressman Paul Ryan expressed deep disappointment that House Democrats do not intend to reveal the earmarks that will be included in spending bills until much later in the process, when there's no opportunity to challenge individual earmarks through amendments offered on the House floor.
Contrary to the intent of earmark disclosure rules adopted in January, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Obey has indicated that earmarks will be added when House and Senate negotiators hammer out a consensus version (conference report) of the legislation. Conference reports cannot be amended and typically are considered the day after the House-Senate conference committee comes to agreement, offering very limited time for review of the final bill's contents.
The bills the House will consider in the coming weeks carve out room for billions in taxpayer-funded projects, without disclosing what those projects will be - essentially creating slush funds for earmarks. For example, a Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, slated for a House vote later this week, reserves about $20 billion for undisclosed projects to be inserted later by Chairman Obey.
"Just when we were making progress on bringing earmarks into the light of day, House Democrats have done an about-face. By forcing the House to vote on spending bills with undisclosed earmarks, they are making the process less open and accountable," Ryan said. "I had high hopes at the start of this Congress when we adopted earmark disclosure rules, but the Democrat leadership is dodging these rules - shifting even more power to the Appropriations Committee and away from American taxpayers and their representatives in Congress. The public, the press, and lawmakers deserve to see what earmarks are attached to which bills and who requested them before Congress votes on this spending."
Last September, the House approved a rules change to shine sunlight on earmarks by requiring that all reported bills and conference reports considered in the House include a list of earmarks and the name of the representative requesting each earmark.
In January of this year, the new House leadership put forward its version of earmark disclosure rules, which the House approved. These required that bills or joint resolutions considered in the House include either a list of earmarks in the text or committee report and the name of the Member of Congress requesting each earmark or a statement that no such earmarks are included. The rules also require every Member of Congress requesting an earmark to provide a written explanation of the request and certifying that the Member or spouse has no financial interest in the earmark.