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Dr. Coburn Disappointed by House's Rejection of Earmark Reform and Transparency

Location: Washington, DC

Dr. Coburn Disappointed by House's Rejection of Earmark Reform and Transparency

Earmark report card for defense pork defeated by members who campaigned for reform

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today regarding the House of Representative's decision to kill an earmark reform and transparency provision by a vote of 70 to 330 that had previously passed the Senate twice, once unanimously and again by a vote of 96 to 1. Sixty-eight House Republicans voted for the measure while only two Democrats voted yes.

The Defense Earmark Report Card Act (DERCA), H.R. 6375, would have required the Department of Defense to analyze the effectiveness of each congressional earmark in advancing the core mission of our nation's military.

"Taxpayers will take note that in the first key vote on earmark reform after the November elections, House members voted to continue business-as-usual wasteful Washington spending," Dr. Coburn said. "It is unconscionable that so many members who campaigned for reform voted for secrecy. This vote shows that most members didn't get the message of the last election. This is not the way to begin the most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress in history."

"If members believe that funding the Arctic Winter Games and waterfree urinals in defense bills will protect our troops and strike fear into the hearts of our enemies, they should welcome an assessment of their earmarks," Dr. Coburn said. "In the wake of recent scandals, House members should not force taxpayers to obtain search warrants to evaluate the merits of earmarks."

The number of earmarks in defense appropriations laws has grown from approximately 587 in fiscal year 1994 to 2,847 in fiscal year 2006. The amount of money earmarked has increased over the same period, from about $4.2 billion to $9.4 billion.

Last year, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) wrote to the House Appropriations Committee warning that the hundreds of million of dollars set aside for Congressional pork projects would be slashed from a Pentagon program designed to fill some military desk jobs with civilians and would thereby "limit one of [the Defense Department's] most productive initiatives for reducing the strain on our armed forces [and to] free up critically needed troops for the Global War on Terror." The letter said "the committee's additions to the Navy's shipbuilding budget ... and numerous other smaller funding increases, preempts the Department's ability to invest cost-effectively in 21st-century capabilities" and that "The administration is concerned that these reductions could damage the readiness of U.S. forces and their preparedness."

Coburn added, "I hope the lopsided vote that occurred today in the House does not signal the intention of House appropriators and leadership offices to continue the practice of coercing members into defending the earmark favor factory at all costs."

"I look forward to working with members on both sides of aisles next year to change the culture of Washington and end wasteful Washington spending. I'm pleased that Senate statesman like John Warner (R-VA), John McCain (R-AZ), Barack Obama (D-IL) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) supported this provision in the Senate along with all but one of my other colleagues," Dr. Coburn said.

"One bright spot for taxpayers this week is the fact that Congress will pass 10,000 fewer earmarks than it passed last year. This represents an 80 percent reduction in the number of earmarks," Dr. Coburn said.

The Congressional Research Service estimates that nearly 13,000 earmarks, at a cost of $64 billion, were funded in fiscal year 2006. Citizens Against Government Waste estimates that 2,600 earmarks at a cost of $14 billion have been passed for fiscal year 2007.

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