Senators Call on Bush to Cut Back Earmarks; Group Notes President Already Has Power
Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A bipartisan group of senators says President Bush is ignoring a tool that he already has to cut special-interest pork-barrel spending and should use that even as he fights to win line-item-veto power from Congress.
Mr. Bush can legally brush off many earmarks, or pork projects, and five senators said he should start there.
"If your administration would reject even some of the most wasteful earmarks, it would ensure that scarce federal funds are spent on national priorities, and it would make it substantially more difficult for Congress to load up annual spending bills with earmarks," they said in a letter responding to Mr. Bush's call last week for lawmakers to create the line-item power.
Every spending bill that passes Congress includes a report, which lawmakers use to clarify parts of the bill and, in the case of spending, urge the administration to dedicate the money to a particular cause.
The reports are not debated or voted on by Congress, and Sen. Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who led the letter-writing effort, said those earmarks never get scrutiny. According to a new Congressional Research Service report, 95 percent of earmarks in the 2006 spending process were add-ons in reports.
"Both branches need to step up to the plate here," Mr. DeMint said. "We need to do more in Congress, but we need help from the administration not to lay down and roll over when we send over these earmarks the agencies say they don't want."
He pointed to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as an agency so flooded with earmarks that it has trouble meeting its basic goals. Mr. DeMint said if it was not bound by earmarks, NOAA could use that money on core missions instead.
Also signing the letter were Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin.
Administration officials said ignoring the earmarks doesn't actually reduce spending. …