Earmarks

Congress passes Reid-McConnell funding, debt ceiling deal

Passage of Reid-McConnell in the House

The government shutdown has come to an end and the debt ceiling has been raised after Congress passed the deal worked out between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

The final deal is funds the federal government through January 15 and raises the debt ceiling to February 7. It also allows for budget negotiations between the two chambers, with the goal of coming to an agreement by December 13. Those points were sort of the basic parts of the deal.

Other aspects of the deal include, according to Jamie Dupree, back-pay for furloughed federal workers, reporting requirements on verification procedures for ObamaCare subsidies, and blocks a pay raise for Congress in FY 2014.

House GOP to bring back earmarks?

After taking control of the House of Representatives in a wave election in 2010, House Republicans decided to extend their moratorium on earmarks, a controversial budget tactic that allow members to insert pet projects in spending bills without so much as a committee hearing or vote.

But before the GOP took control, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who would later become House Majority Leader, suggested that the moratorium on earmarks may only be temporary, which would be a slap in the face to fiscal conservatives and Tea Party activists that helped the GOP come back to power. Cantor was quick to amend his remarks, but it looks like House Republicans have learned little. Reuters notes that they are considering resuming the practice of earmarking:

The huge federal transportation bill was in tatters in early March when Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama posed a heretical idea for breaking through gridlock in the House.

In a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans, Rogers recommended reviving a proven legislative sweetener that became politically toxic a year ago.

Bring back earmarks, Rogers, who was first elected to Congress in 2002, told his colleagues.

Few members of Congress have been bold enough to use the “e” word since both the House and Senate temporarily banned the practice last year after public outcries about Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere” and other pork barrel projects.

But as lawmakers wrestle with legislative paralysis, there are signs that earmarks - special interest projects that used to be tacked onto major bills - could make a comeback.

Why The Libertarian-Conservative Alliance Can’t Survive Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum, after his recent wins in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri; appears to be the GOP frontrunner. If you look at Santorum’s record and rhetoric, he would appear to be the best fit for the Republican Party. Indeed, it is almost hard now not to imagine a scenario where Santorum is not the nominee.

However, if the GOP decides to nominates him, it will put an end to the fiction that the GOP is a limited government party. It will also put an end to what is left of the conservative-libertarian alliance.

Santorum is the only candidate running for president who is openly hostile to libertarianism. Santorum’s record is abysmal on fiscal issues. He voted for the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, No Child Left Behind, numerous earmarks and pork barrel projects, voted against NAFTA and is generally opposed to free trade. His proposals on foreign aid have won praise from Bono, the rest of the Third World poverty pimps, and their allied Tranzi NGOs. The Sweater Vest also wants to maintain a tax code that is riddled full of deductions and loopholes rewarding selected constituencies, instead of proposing a simpler system that is fairer to all. Rick Santorum, far from being the next Reagan, appears to be a compassionate conservative in the mold of George W. Bush. Finally, Rick Santorum last summer in a speech declared war on libertarians.

In a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg last summer, Santorum declared, “I am not a libertarian, and I fight very strongly against libertarian influence within the Republican Party and the conservative movement.”

Washington Post uncovers earmarks used near lawmakers personal property

The practice of earmarks has come under scrutiny in recent years and some members in both chambers have pushed for bans on the practice because of the propensity of their colleagues to use them for less than noble purposes. The House of Representatives did enact a moratorium, though it doesn’t seem to be all that effective.

Some say that restricting earmarks is unconstitutional because it cuts in on congressional spending authority in Article I, Section 8. Others say that earmarks represent a fraction of the budget and eliminating them does nothing in the way of restoring fiscal responsibility. The former has some merit, but we know how James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, felt about spending for pork projects. It’s hard to see that he would find funding peanut research meets any constitutional litmus test.

The latter is true; however, earmarks are the epitome of what is wrong with Washington, DC. Yes, reforming entitlements and cutting spend elsewhere is incredibly important, but earmarks are a symbolic part of the battle. If we can’t cut this fraction of spending out of the budget or reform the earmark process, are we naive enough to believe that we can reform entitlements?

Back in 2006, at the height of the discussion about ethics in Congress, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) explained that earmarks are the “currency of corrpution.” Not only were members using them to steer business to donors and friends, they were being used by leadership of both parties to sway votes on legislation.

Gary Johnson or Ron Paul?

On Thursday, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson announced his candidacy for President of the United States.  Texas Congressman Ron Paul is expected to announce his candidacy at some point in the future.  That would put two libertarians campaigning for the limited libertarian vote in the GOP.  Some argue that this would be a good thing, that the two could shred the likes of Donald Trump and Sarah Palin in the primary debates.  Unfortunately, let’s face facts.  Paul didn’t perform well last time in the debates, so the only reason to expect different this time is the pathetic line up we’re looking at from the GOP this time around.

However, as things stand at the moment, I’m putting my weight behind Gary Johnson.  This isn’t a lack of respect or admiration for Ron Paul, those are as strong as ever.  However, Johnson has a few things going for him that Paul doesn’t necessarily.

It’s true that both have a record to stand on.  However, Paul as repeatedly used earmarks to send money to his home district.  Granted, he always votes against the budget after adding those earmarks, but some can easily argue that Paul knows it will pass anyways so he’s just voting against the budget on form.  He’s bringing home the pork just like so many he criticizes, at least in their eyes.  Johnson, on the other hand, vetoed over 750 pieces of legislation during his time as governor of New Mexico.

SOTU: Obama wants to cut deficit while “investing”

If you were looking for a substantive discussion of the problems facing the United States, last night’s State of the Union address was a let down.

President Barack Obama spent 62 minutes speaking in mostly generalities and explaining to us how great government spending is, but also warning the Congress that he will veto bills containing earmarks – special projects that are inserted into legislation that go bypass the normal budget process. President Obama also pledged to take measures to cut spending by enacting a five-year freeze on non-defense discretionary spending. While he may consider this to be some great feat, Obama’s proposal will only save $400 billion during that time. This is a drop in the bucket compared to the $6 trillion in budget deficits projected by the Congressional Budget Office.

Obama noted in his speech that non-defense discretionary spending represents a relatively small portion of the budget – around 12 percent, using his numbers, and added that “we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough.”

State of the Union Live-Blog

Doug Mataconis, Brett Bittner, Mike Hassinger, Tom Knighton and Jason Pye will be live-blogging President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and the Republican response given by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). We’ll kick things off around 8:30pm (EST).

Our friends at the Cato Institute are also live-blogging this evening.

You can full text of President Obama’s prepared speech here. Excerpts from Rep. Ryan’s speech are available here.

Welcome Instapundit readers!

Ron Paul Explains Earmarks to Cavuto on Fox

See Video

Dr. Paul explains the truth behind earmarks and the responsibility Congress has to earmark every single dollar.

Today in Liberty: Remembering the Unknown Rebel, Obama administration fails to win over senators on Taliban deal

“As the tanks neared the Beijing Hotel, the lone young man walked toward the middle of the avenue waving his jacket and shopping bag to stop the tanks. I kept shooting in anticipation of what I felt was his certain doom. But to my amazement, the lead tank stopped, then tried to move around him. But the young man cut it off again. Finally, the [Public Security Bureau] grabbed him and ran away with him.” Charlie Cole

— Remember the Unknown Rebel: Twenty-five years ago today, an unidentified man, thought to be a student, walked in front of a line of tanks on their way to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, where thousands of students, yearning for freedom, were protesting China’s totalitarian government.

The day before the photo above was taken, the military had stormed Tiananmen Square, killing as many as 1,000 protesters. The famous photo of “tank man” is censored in China, but his stand against an oppressive government is an inspiration to millions. But to show what exactly this brave guy was up against, see below.

Today in Liberty: Glenn Greenwald blasts a “corrupted” Hillary Clinton, former CIA official endorses Benghazi committee

“For liberty to triumph in the United States (and eventually throughout the world) libertarianism must become a mainstream movement, converting if not a majority, at least a large, critical minority of Americans.” — Murray Rothbard

— Glenn Greenwald blasts Hillary Clinton: The journalist behind the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosures didn’t hold back in his criticism of Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential frontrunner. “Hillary is banal, corrupted, drained of vibrancy and passion. I mean, she’s been around forever, the Clinton circle,” Greenwald said in an interview with GQ. “She’s a f**king hawk and like a neocon, practically. She’s surrounded by all these sleazy money types who are just corrupting everything everywhere.” Gospel.

— Yes, it should be made easier to deal with a bad president: Impeachment, the mechanism in the Constitution for the removal of a president, has become too much of a political football to be an effective tool for Congress, says Gene Healy. It has also been misinterpreted by legal schools. Healy points to one law professor, Sanford Levinson, who is pushing for a new way to deal with a bad president. “Levinson favors a constitutional amendment allowing a congressional ‘no confidence’ vote and removal of the president. Adding that “safety valve” to the Constitution would be a long shot, to say the least,” Healy writes. “But years ago, we went through a yearlong constitutional conniption because the Constitution makes it so absurdly difficult to dethrone a misbehaving executive. Given the vast powers the modern president wields, it ought to be easier to ‘throw the bum out.’”


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