Walt Minnick today called on Congressional leaders of both political parties to join together in passing a permanent, complete ban on earmarks.
"For years we have had to watch as Congress made only small steps toward the fiscal accountability Americans want," Minnick said. "Today there is an opportunity to take one very big step. I call on leaders of both parties to co-sponsor a complete ban on earmarks. If they don't introduce the legislation, I will do it myself."
Minnick is one of only four people in his caucus who refuse to seek earmarks, and has long advocated for a permanent ban on the practice.
"I have fought bureaucracy and red tape to make sure my constituents are treated fairly by the federal government, and have worked hard to make sure Idahoans get their fair share," Minnick said. "My short time in Congress is proof that you don't need earmarks to get your constituents what they are owed."
More Information on Earmarks
According to the Citizens Against Government Waste, there were 10,160 earmarks worth $19.6 billion in the 2009 appropriations bills. Minnick said in 2009 that he would refuse to participate in the earmark process due to the need for fiscal restraint in Washington, D.C, and says now that the ballooning federal deficit and difficult economy require even more fiscal discipline by Congress.
"We need to permanently change the earmark process and show the American people that we are committed to spending their money in a way that serves the best interests of the country," Minnick said. "But that is only one step toward putting our country back on the track to fiscal health. We need a Constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance the budget. We need a commission process that will force politicians to make the tough choices to fix the grave financial problems in entitlement programs. And we need to impose mandatory "pay as you go‟ rules to make sure that Congress spends not one penny that‟s borrowed from our children and grandchildren."
What are earmarks?
OMB defines "earmarks" as "funds provided by the Congress for projects, programs, or grants where the purported congressional direction (whether in statutory text, report language, or other communication) circumvents otherwise applicable merit-based or competitive allocation processes, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the executive branch to manage its statutory and constitutional responsibilities pertaining to the funds allocation process."
But the fact is that on occasion, earmarks have been used as a vehicle for waste, and fraud, and abuse. Projects have been inserted at the 11th hour, without review, and sometimes without merit, in order to satisfy the political or personal agendas of a given legislator, rather than the public interest. There are times where earmarks may be good on their own, but in the context of a tight budget might not be our highest priority. So these practices hit their peak in the middle of this decade, when the number of earmarks had ballooned to more than 16,000, and played a part in a series of corruption cases.
Is there another way?
First, I pledge to work directly with those who will put Idahoans back to work with focused projects to help local communities, by assisting them with applying for competitive, open grants through a process subject to public scrutiny.
Second, I pledge to continue seeking earmark reforms while voting against spending I do not believe is in the best interests - short term or long term - of Idaho or America.
And third, I pledge to listen, learn and evaluate my decision over the coming year while fighting in every way I can to get this economy moving again so we can restore fiscal discipline and balance the budget.