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Dr. Coburn Calls Earmarking an Unconstitutional Abuse of Power


Location: Washington, DC

Dr. Coburn Calls Earmarking an Unconstitutional Abuse of Power
Says defeat of moratorium will fuel public outrage over pork

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today in advance of a Senate vote to enact a one-year moratorium on earmarking.

"The debate about earmarks is over everywhere in America except for Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, this amendment is likely to fail because too many Senators have confused the Founding Fathers of the earmark favor factory with the Founding Fathers of the United States of America," Dr. Coburn said of a vote Senate leaders may schedule in the dark of the night.

"The arguments made against this amendment have been the worst form of revisionist history. Earmarking is not a noble duty; it is an unconstitutional abuse of power. If earmarks were such an important constitutional duty why did Congress wait nearly 200 years before starting up the earmark favor factory? The facts show that the number of earmarks went from a few dozen in the mid-1980s to tens of thousands today. Instead of taking constitutional lessons from Jack Abramoff, members of Congress should reacquaint themselves with the likes of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson," Dr. Coburn said.

"Jefferson would describe today's pork process as an ‘eternal scramble among members,' while Madison would contradict legislators who believe the Constitution gives them a blank check to spend money on any pork project they desire," Dr. Coburn said.

Jefferson quotes (emphasis added):

"[O]ther revenues will soon be called into their aid, and it will be the source of eternal scramble among the members, who can get the most money wasted in their State; and they will always get the most who are the meanest."

"The power to regulate commerce does not give a power to build piers, wharves, open ports, clear the beds of rivers, dig canals, build warehouses, build manufacturing machines, set up manufactories, cultivate the earth, to all of which the power would go if it went to the first."

Madison quote (emphasis added):

"With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers (enumerated in the Constitution) connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."

"In addition to being an unconstitutional perversion of our duties, earmarks also drive spending higher and distract Congress from its oversight responsibilities. Earmarks are the gateway drug to spending addiction in Congress because they encourage members of Congress to vote for bloated bills they would otherwise oppose. Earmarks also waste money outright, contrary to the views of many members. If Congress stopped earmarking we could reduce spending by the same amount. We are not helpless victims to the budget rules we set for ourselves. Plus, the effective legislator is not one who sends money back to his or her state through pork. Instead, the effective legislator is one who prevents money from leaving their state," Dr. Coburn said.

"Finally, ending earmarks would not cede some special authority to the ‘faceless bureaucrats' in the Executive Branch. The power of the purse gives Congress oversight authority over every agency and bureaucrat. No agency receives a dime that isn't appropriated by Congress. If we don't like how an agency is spending money we have no one to blame but ourselves," Dr. Coburn said.

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