U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Mark Begich (D-AK) released the following statement today regarding S.282, the "Orphan Earmarks Act," a bill they have introduced to rescind funds for so-called orphaned earmarks. Specifically, the bill would rescind earmarks that remain 90 percent or more unused nine years after being appropriated, with the possibility of holding funds one more year for earmarks the agency head believes will be funded within the following 12 months. The total savings of the Coburn-Begich bill could exceed $500 million.
"With our nation facing a $14 trillion debt, it is critical both parties work together to identify and pass common sense spending cuts. As Congress shifts its focus from earmarking to deficit reduction, rescinding funds for orphaned earmarks is an obvious step toward fiscal sanity. I urge my colleagues to pass this measure as soon as possible," Dr. Coburn said, noting that the Senate passed similar language last year by a margin of 87 to 11.
"We have to leave no stone unturned as we work to reduce the deficit," Begich said. "As we focus on reducing spending, we can take easy steps like rescinding the money for unspent earmarks. If an earmark hasn't been claimed in nearly a decade, it's unlikely it ever will be. By essentially passing a "Use it or Lose it' strategy, we can save roughly $500 million. That's not chump change."
The Coburn-Begich bill is modeled after a Bush administration proposal from 2008 that would have rescinded any highway and bridge earmark funds from the 1998 highway bill (TEA21) that had less than 10 percent of funds spent or obligated. That proposal only would have saved $626 million including $389 million in 152 earmarks that had no funding obligated a decade after passage. The Coburn-Begich bill targets all orphan earmarks, not just those for highways and bridges.