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Senate and House Conservatives Call on President Bush to Veto Omnibus Spending Bill and Keep Commitment to Cut Cost and Number of Earmarks in Half

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Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), and U.S. Representatives John Shadegg (R-AZ), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and John Campbell (R-CA) today called on President Bush to keep his commitment to cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half.

In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Bush said: " Next, there is the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour - when not even C-SPAN is watching. In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. Even worse, over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate - they are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You didn't vote them into law. I didn't sign them into law. Yet, they're treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice. So let us work together to reform the budget process, expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress, and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session."

"President Bush was wise to challenge Congress to scale back what has become known as the 'earmark favor factory' in Washington. Special interest earmarks divert billions of dollars from higher priority needs and undermine public confidence in Congress, which is at an all-time low. President Bush should veto this bloated spending bill and force members of Congress to sacrifice some of their pet projects for higher priorities. For instance, few Americans would support spending $213,000 for olive fruit fly research in France ahead of spending that same sum to support our troops, repair dangerous bridges or provide health care for kids," Dr. Coburn said.

"Moreover, the presence of 9,170 earmarks in this bill has created a powerful incentive for members of both parties to look the other way in the face of budget gimmicks and accounting shenanigans that are hiding unknown billions in additional spending above the President's request," Dr. Coburn added.

According to the earmark baseline developed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), there were 13,492 appropriations earmarks in fiscal year 2005 http://earmarks.omb.gov/appropriations_home.html Thus, in order to meet the president's "50 percent reduction," Congress could not pass more than 6,476 earmarks for fiscal year 2008.

Yet, the 2008 omnibus spending bill contains 9,170 earmarks in the 2008 omnibus spending bill. This total, in addition to the 2,161 earmarks in the 2008 defense spending bill (none of which were requested by the Pentagon), bring this year's earmark total to 11,331 earmarks for 2008, a mere 16 percent reduction compared to OMB's baseline of 13,492 earmarks in 2005. (Note: all earmark estimates exclude earmarks requested by the White House.)

In terms of total cost, this year's earmark total may exceed the total from 2005 when Congress passed nearly $18 billion in earmarks.

Notable earmarks in the 2008 omnibus spending bill include:

Rodent control in Alaska ($113,000)
Olive fruit fly research in France ($213,000)
Hunting and Fishing Museum in Pennsylvania ($200,000)
Louis Armstrong Museum in New York ($150,000)
A bike trail in Minnesota ($700,000)
A river walk in Massachusetts ($1,000,000)
A post office museum in downtown Las Vegas ($200,000); and
The Lincoln Park Zoo in Illinois ($37,000)

"Once again, Democrats have broken their promises. Democrats promised to cut earmarks in half, but this bill doesn't even come close. In fact, this omnibus could spend more on pork than any appropriations bill in history. Americans want us to end the wasteful and corrupting earmark system that helps special interests at the expense of taxpayers. This bill is earmark business as usual and it deserves to be rejected," Sen. DeMint said.

"No American taxpayer should tolerate Members of Congress spending hard earned tax dollars on pet projects that benefit their cronies or seek to buy themselves back into office. Yet, once again, this bill demonstrates that is exactly what the Congress is doing. Every reform promise has proven hollow. The President should veto this bill and demand an end to self serving Congressional corruption," Rep. Shadegg said.

"Despite claims that they were going to clean up the pork, Democrats produced a massive spending bill that contains nearly 700 pages of 9,000 plus earmarks. Worse, Democrats are forcing members to vote on these earmarks without allowing any time to investigate their merit. Though not all these earmarks will be bad, it is clear that once again the earmarking process has lent itself to the triumph of seniority over merit, secrecy over transparency, and the special interest over the national interest. That alone would be reason enough to veto the bill. The nation would be far better off with a Continuing Resolution than passing a 3,000 page, rammed-down-your-throat spending bill chock full of uninvestigated earmarks," Rep. Hensarling said.

"This omnibus bill still spends too much, includes over 9,000 earmarks, is loaded with accounting gimmicks, and members of Congress were given 24 hours to review all 3,000 pages of it. I urge the President to veto it," Rep. Campbell said.


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