Limit Pork to $9.5 Billion,budget Office Urges Hill

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 5, 2007 | Go to article overview

Limit Pork to $9.5 Billion,budget Office Urges Hill


Byline: Sean Lengell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Bush's budget office yesterday called on Congress to spend no more than $9.5 billion on pork-barrel projects next year, a monumental task for a legislative body known for spending tens of billions on pet programs annually.

The Office of Management and Budget set $19 billion as the starting point for Mr. Bush's State of the Union call on lawmakers to cut earmarks, or pork, by 50 percent in 2008 fiscal year appropriations.

This "establishes a clear and transparent benchmark from which to judge the president's goal of cutting the number and cost of earmarks by at least half," OMB Director Rob Portman said. "We will now be working with Congress to achieve this goal."

Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit advocacy group that publishes an annual report of congressional pork-barrel projects, said $19 billion was a good starting point.

"If they cut it to $9.5 billion, I think everybody will he happy except for a few members of Congress," said the group's president, Thomas A. Schatz. "We'd like to see the number at zero, but as long as less money is spent on earmarks, we're happy."

A spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and a longtime foe of pork, said that while the senator applauds the president's drive to cut pork, an ethics law governing the earmarks process also is needed.

"A reform process is not in place," Coburn spokesman John Hart said. "The senator believes the entire earmark system as it is, is totally corrupt." Mr. Hart added he thinks reducing earmarks by $9.5 billion in 2008 is attainable.

"I think cutting earmarks by 99 percent is totally realistic," he said. "Ronald Reagan one year signed a budget with only 13 or so earmarks, and our country operated fine."

The $19 billion number was the amount OMB calculated Congress spent on earmarks in 2005. The year was chosen because 2005 represents a typical year in regard to pork-barrel spending, OMB officials said. …

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