U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have once again teamed up to protect taxpayer dollars from use in Congressional earmarks-this time, introducing bipartisan legislation to claw back previously earmarked, but unspent, taxpayer dollars at the Department of Transportation.
McCaskill and Coburn's Orphan Earmarks Act would void appropriations that currently have 90 percent or more funds remaining 10 fiscal years after being earmarked, as well as require the Department of Transportation to submit an annual report on each project that uses earmarked funds and which funds remain available at the end of each fiscal year.
"I've made it a top priority since joining the Senate to safeguard taxpayer dollars and put an end to the wasteful practice of earmarking," said McCaskill, the Senate's leading Democratic opponent of earmarks, a process that for years allowed members of Congress to direct taxpayer funds to their home regions for pet projects. "Our country is facing an infrastructure crisis, and this bill could help chip away at that crisis by redirecting these orphaned funds, allowing us to invest in our roads and bridges, grow our economy, and create jobs."
"Dollars for earmarks that have been orphaned for more than a decade are either unnecessary, or are dollars that could have been used to repair roads and our nation's 63,000 structurally deficient bridges. This common-sense proposal will force Congress to set real priorities and save taxpayers millions of dollars," Dr. Coburn said.
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has found that continuing to fund unused "orphan" earmarks results in an enormous amount of waste and unnecessary spending, saying: "Even if Congress did not intend the grantees to have decades to decide whether to implement the projects, there is no budgetary mechanism to call attention to projects that are extremely delayed or to reallocate funding from inactive projects. As a result, some amount of budgetary authority that states could otherwise use to address current transportation needs is not available for that purpose."
McCaskill-one of few members of Congress who has never requested or received an earmark-led the effort to institute the current moratorium on Congressional earmarks, preventing billions of dollars in pork projects from being authorized. Earlier this year, McCaskill, along with Republican Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), introduced the bipartisan Earmark Elimination Act which would expand the temporary moratorium and permanently ban earmarks from the legislative process.