The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee today passed S.3335, the "Earmark Transparency Act of 2010" by a vote of 11-5. The legislation, which would set up a user-friendly, online database taxpayers can use to sort, search and download earmark data, was introduced by Senator Coburn (R-OK), along with Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The bill now has 27 cosponsors.
The legislation answers President Obama's call for Congress to create a single, searchable database of all congressional earmark requests. In his January 27, 2010 State of the Union address President Obama said, "Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there's a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent."
"Taxpayer dollars do not belong to earmark lobbyists, committees or politicians but to the American people, and the American people have a right to know how Congress might spend their money. While Congress has taken some steps to make the earmark process more transparent, some prefer to keep the process cloaked in secrecy. This legislation, I believe, will help Congress earn back the confidence of the American people," Dr. Coburn said.
"Today one would have to access 550 websites to review all the earmarks proposed by Members of Congress. This bill would do exactly what the President suggested -- place all proposed earmarks on one website thereby providing greater transparency to the American people who deserve to know how their hard earned tax dollars are being spent," said Senator John McCain. "Congress is accountable to the American people -- this bill will go a long way toward ending the secrecy surrounding the practice of earmarking."
"Making it easier for the American people to see who is behind these earmarks and how exactly their tax dollars are being spent will help curb wasteful spending, while exposing potential corruption. The database created by this bill will provide the kind of transparency the American people deserve and is part of my continued efforts to end the abusive earmarking process," said Senator Feingold.
"If everyone in America can easily see who and what their lawmakers are requesting taxpayer money for, we can hold elected officials accountable, end the days of political, special interest favors, and reduce wasteful spending," Senator Gillibrand said. "I've led by example, posting all of my federal funding requests on my own website since I came to Congress. This bipartisan legislation will make this the new national standard to bring openness and transparency to the funding request process so all Americans can judge for themselves how lawmakers are spending their money."
"I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill, which will shine even more light on the process by creating a single, searchable database on earmarks," said Senator Susan Collins, R-Me., Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. "Our government must function on the core principles of accountability, transparency and openness. This bill will help make that happen in a very tangible way."
The Earmark Transparency Act of 2010 would do the following:
* Create a user-friendly, online database -- the first ever database where citizens can sort, search and download earmark requests and final approved projects.
* Provide details that currently available to the public: including the amount of initial request, amount approved by the committee, amount approved in final legislation, sponsor name, sponsor state or district, project name, and other relevant information;
* Allow the public to see what Congress sees -- The bill would require the website to include the earmark request letter written by a member of Congress and any documents supporting the request that is sent to a congressional committee; and
* Make information available quicker -- it would, consistent with the President's speech, require all requested earmarks that are approved to be made public before a vote.