U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today strongly argued against a proposal that would effectively impose a moratorium on how Congress uses earmarks to appropriate funding for programs and projects within the federal government.
The Senate on Tuesday voted with Cochran (68-29) to table an amendment sponsored by Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) that would have placed a one-year moratorium on earmarks. The amendment was offered to the FAA Reauthorization Act (HR.1586).
"Earmarking has nothing to do with how much the federal government spends, but has everything to do with who decides," Cochran said in a floor speech prior to the vote against the amendment.
Cochran argued that an earmark moratorium would not, as some believe, curb federal spending. He explained that Senate Appropriations Committee produces spending bills that conform to the discretionary spending levels set by Congress in annual budget resolutions.
Mississippi's senior Senator described a moratorium as a "makeshift budget constraint that accomplishes nothing except shift power from the Congress to the executive," which would "be an abdication of our responsibilities as United States Senators."
"The level of spending is not the question before us. The question proposed by the DeMint Amendment is whether Congress will allow the executive branch to make 100 percent of all the decisions about how spending is allocated or whether Congress will preserve its Constitutional prerogative to appropriate the funds for the purposes that it deems meritorious," Cochran said.
Finally, Cochran said the interests of each state can be better represented by its elected Senators rather than by leaving all federal spending decisions to various departments and agencies within the federal government.
"I think the people of my state are entitled to be represented by an advocate for projects and programs that benefit our state," Cochran said. "There are many outstanding civil servants within the executive branch, but those persons are not necessarily familiar with the interests of the people in our respective states and with the needs of those whom we represent."
"It is naïve to think that political considerations are not going to be part of the executive branch decision-making process either. History belies the notion that executive branch judgment, with regard to spending, is superior to the legislative branch," he said.