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Democrats Ram Through Secret Earmarks, Block Vote to Support Troop Surge in Iraq

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Democrats Ram Through Secret Earmarks, Block Vote to Support Troop Surge in Iraq

Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) made the following statement after voting against passage of a defense authorization bill that includes over $5 billion in secret earmarks, cuts funding for training of security forces, denies commanders flexibility on the ground, and refuses to recognize the success of the surge. Democrats blocked numerous amendments to the bill including Senator DeMint's amendment to strike "incorporation language" in the bill that gives thousands of secret earmarks in the committee report the force of law, and refused to recognize the success of the surge.

"While I strongly support the pay raise for our military, Democrats used this bill to choose secret earmarks and politics over defense priorities and giving our troops the recognition they deserve," said Senator DeMint. "This bill is a direct violation of an executive order that told Congress to stop the abuse of secret earmarks in committee reports, instead big spenders just created a bigger loophole to keep business as usual. Democrats blocked my amendment which would have simply allowed for a merit-based review of these projects and allowed agencies to stop wasteful earmarks and direct tax dollars to real priorities. In our troubled economy and mounting crisis of national debt, these secret earmarks are a step backwards on reform and an insult to Americans who are demand responsible government."

"This bill forces the Department of Defense to waste money on equipment it may not want or need, and ties the hands of our commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan. The situation in Iraq is stable but fragile. Denying our commanders on the ground the flexibility to meet changing threats and limiting the funds for security training hurts our troops and their security," said Senator DeMint.

U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Joe Lieberman (R-Connecticut) were also blocked from a vote on their amendment to recognize the strategic success of the troop surge in Iraq and express gratitude to U.S. Armed Forces.

"It's shameful that Democrats chose to play political games while our brave men and women are fighting overseas and winning the battle against Al Qaeda in Iraq. The surge by our troops has been a tremendous success and has given Iraq a chance for real long-term stability. The Graham-Lieberman amendment would have given our armed forces the recognition they deserve for their triumph over terrorism in Iraq," said Senator DeMint.

More on Secret Earmarks in the Bill

Section 1002 of the defense authorization bill has "incorporation language" that gives the force of law to all of the non-legislative earmarks written in committee reports, even though they are not actually written in the bill, not debated, not voted on, and not signed into law.

Senator DeMint's earmark amendment would strike Section 1002, and restore the effect of the President's executive order to ensure all earmarks in committee reports are subjected to a competitive, merit-based review. This would allow agencies to continue funding worthy projects, while stopping wasteful earmarks and directing the tax dollars to real priorities.

The "incorporation language" would likely lead to a veto because it is a direct violation of the President's Executive Order which specifically prohibits agencies funding secret, non-legislative earmarks in committee reports:

For appropriations laws and other legislation enacted after the date of this order, executive agencies should not commit, obligate, or expend funds on the basis of earmarks included in any non-statutory source, including requests in reports of committees of the Congress or other congressional documents, or communications from or on behalf of Members of Congress, or any other non-statutory source, except when required by law or when an agency has itself determined a project, program, activity, grant, or other transaction to have merit under statutory criteria or other merit-based decisionmaking.

The President stated January 29 when he signed the order:

"Secondly, there's a practice here in Washington, and I'm not sure many of our citizens understand it takes place, where members just put in special spending projects into what's called report language. That means that these projects never were voted on, never really saw the light of day. And this executive order says that any such earmarks this year and into the future will be ignored…"

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