Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) today introduced an amendment to strip an earmark from the Surface Transportation Bill. Congress is currently operating under a de facto earmark ban and President Obama has vowed to veto any legislation containing earmarks.
"It's a matter of trust," Johanns said. "The President said he would not sign any legislation containing an earmark, and Congress has promised the American people a highway bill without earmarks. I won't break that promise.
"We need a highway bill signed into law and that cannot happen -- according to the President -- with this earmark. I hope the Senate will pass my amendment, and I hope I can support final passage of a truly earmark-free highway bill."
Subsection (d) of Section 1516 on page 463, lines 8-14, of the highway bill -- which rescinds unspent funds from a project in Nevada and directs that money to the state of Nevada -- is an earmark under Rule 44 of the Standing Rules of the Senate. The rule defines an earmark as, "a provision or report language included primarily at the request of a Senator providing, authorizing, or recommending a specific amount of discretionary budget authority, credit authority, or other spending authority for a contract, loan, loan guarantee, grant, loan authority, or other expenditure with or to an entity, or targeted to a specific State, locality or Congressional district, other than through a statutory or administrative formula-driven or competitive award process." (emphasis added)
Senate Republicans implemented an earmark moratorium for this Congress, as did the House of Representatives. After Obama pledged last year during the State of the Union that, "If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it. I will veto it," the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee said he would not allow earmarks on legislation before his committee.