There has been some talk over the last year that House Republicans would bring back earmarks, a line-items in spending bills for specific districts or for favored constituencies. The process is scrutinized by fiscal conservatives because there is little sunlight in the process by which earmarks are included in spending bills and most projects are wasteful in their nature.
House Republicans place a moratorium on earmarks when they took control of the chamber in 2011. There were reports early this year, however, that some members were making a push to bring back the pernicious practice, perhaps as a way to influence members of either side to support legislation they may otherwise oppose.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK), a long-time proponent of earmarking and an apologist for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” was planning to introduce a measure to change House rules that would lift the ban. But pressure from Speaker John Boehner led Young to withdraw the proposal:
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) withdrew an amendment to House GOP rules under pressure from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who had made his opposition to the measure clear. The measure would have allowed an exception to the earmark ban if the recipient of the earmark was a unit of local government.
A source close to the Speaker told The Hill the Young amendment would have created “a gaping loophole” to the earmark ban.
“At the end of the day, he declined to offer it because of the clear opposition in the room,” the source said. “Prior to Young pulling the amendment, the Speaker had let it be known that he opposed the amendment and would ask for its defeat if offered.”
It has been a bumpy ride for Rep. Jeff Flake in his bid for the open United States Senate seat in Arizona. Flake’s campaign was forced to spend money during his bid for the Republican nomination thanks to Wil Cardon, a largely self-funded rival.
While he won the GOP nomination by a health margin, the damage had been done to Flake’s campaign coffers. On the other hand, Richard Carmona, the Democratic Party’s nominee in the race, was able to raise and money because he didn’t have a primary challenger.
Carmona has been largely slamming Flake for being a “career politician,” echoing charges made in the Republican primary. He’s also slammed Flake for allegedly cutting benefits for veterans, which is a misleading claim, and for allegedly being weak on environmental issues. The attacks coupled with Carmona’s claims of being able to work across the aisle with Republicans looked like they were having some affect, that is until Flake’s team rolled out one of the best ads of any race across the country this year.
The ad featured Cristina Beato, who served as Acting Assistant Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, recounting an incident during which she, a single mother, was awakened by the sounds of Carmona beating at her front door one night. Beato, who was Carmona’s boss at DHHS, explained in the ad that she was scared for herself and her kids. Looking directly into the camera, Beato says, “Carmona is not who he seems. He has issues with anger, with ethics and with women,” adding that he “should never, ever be in the U.S. Senate.”
While the United States Senate race in Arizona would looking like it could be a disaster for Republicans, a new poll from Rasmussen shows Rep. Jeff Flake leading Richard Carmona by 6 points as the campaigns head down the final stretch:
Republican Congressman Jeff Flake has hit the 50% mark for the first time in the U.S. Senate race in Arizona.
A new Rasmussen Reports/CBS 5 survey finds Flake with 50% of the vote to Democrat Richard Carmona’s 44%. Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, and another three percent (3%) are undecided. This survey was taken following the candidates’ recent debate.
Eighty-two percent (82%) of Arizona Republicans back Flake, while Carmona draws support from 76% of the state’s Democrats. Carmona leads 56% to 33% among voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties.
Early voting has begun in Arizona, and among those who have already voted, Carmona leads 48% to 46%. Among those who say they are certain to vote in this election, Flake leads 50% to 45%.
This race should have never been this close. Flake has been as consistant as they come in Congress from a fiscal perspective, at one time leading a fight against earmarks and wasteful spending when it was unpopular to do so. Unfortunately, Flake’s primary opponent spent $8.5 million of his own money trying to tear him down. This put Flake in a tough position, forcing him to spend money in a primary battle that should have been saved for the general election race against Carmona.
Even though prospect of taking the White House and the Senate — no thanks to Todd Akin — seem to be slipping away from them, the likelihood that Republicans will keep the House is looking very good at the moment, according to the Washington Post:
Democrats appear set to win a handful of House seats from Republicans this November, but at this point there is little reason to believe they are on track to winning back the majority.
According to The Fix’s new House race ratings, Democrats currently have more opportunities for seat pick-ups than do Republicans.
As of right now, though, that advantage is pretty small, and it’s offset by the fact that Republicans are favored to win seven Democratic-held districts — a fact that will complicate the minority party’s path to a majority.
The ratings show Republicans currently favored to win 226 House seats, while Democrats are favored to win 182. The remaining 27 seats are considered pure toss-ups.
Even if Democrats won all 27 of those seats, they would still fall nine seats short of the majority. Which means, at this point, they need to pursue Republican-leaning seats if they want a shot at control.
Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Following the House’s passage of a six-month continuing resolution last week (my comments on the CR here), House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) chatted about fiscal policy with a couple of reporters on C-SPAN. The interview did nothing to change my 2010 opinion that the House leadership handing Rogers the chairman’s gavel was “about as inspiring as re-heated meatloaf.”
While Rogers is correct that domestic discretionary spending represents a relatively small share of total spending (approximately 12 percent) and that entitlement spending is the bigger problem, his comment that “we’ve just about reached the bottom of the barrel” on such spending is a stretch. Domestic discretionary spending has dropped, but after a sizeable increase during the 2000s. And arguably more important than the dollar amount this category represents are the activities being funded. For example, the federal government shouldn’t be spending a dime on the Department of Education, which is mostly discretionary spending.
Yesterday, I was grabbing a cup of coffee while browsing through Twitter when I saw a headline that literally made me spit my drink out of my mouth. President Barack Obama will apparently attempt to paint Mitt Romney, who has mathematically secured enough delegates to win the GOP nomination, as a libertarian (note Obama doesn’t actually use that term to describe Romney, but the beliefs describe are libertarian in nature):
President Barack Obama is previewing his next strategy in the 2012 campaign — an audacious effort to paint former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and the majority GOP as radical libertarians that have abandoned mainstream American politics.
Since 2000, “we [Democrats] haven’t moved that much. … What’s changed is the Republican Party,” Obama told a group of wealthy donors gathered Monday night at a New York town-house owned by Marc Lasry. Lasry is a billionaire equity-capitalist who runs a $20 billion fund that buys up the shaky assets of failing companies.
Republicans “have gone from a preference for market-based solutions to an absolutism … [to] a belief that all regulations are bad; that government has no role to play,” said Obama, who has presided over record unemployment of at least 8.1 percent, record deficits of more than $1 trillion per year, and a record $5 trillion increase in the national debt.
The president’s divisive strategy is designed to persuade swing-voters that the former governor of Massachusetts is a radical libertarian, even though Obama has repeatedly said his health-sector law is modeled on Romney’s Massachusetts law.
During the fall of 2010, Republicans promised Americans that they would work to bring the country back on a sustainable fiscal path, promising spending cuts and, eventually, a balanced budget. But the results of House Republican rule have been less than pleasing. CNS News reports that since they took control last year, the national debt has increased by $1.59 trillion:
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which took office in January 2011, has enacted federal spending bills under which the national debt has increased more in less than one term of Congress than in the first 97 Congresses combined.
In the fifteen months that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives—led by Speaker John Boehner—has effectively enjoyed a constitutional veto over federal spending, the federal government’s debt has increased by about $1.59 trillion.
The approximately $1.59 trillion in new debt accumulated since the Republican-controlled House gained a veto over federal spending legislation is more than the total increase in the federal debt between 1789, when the first Congress convened, and October 1984, when the 98th Congress was nearing the end of its second session.
Rep. Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania served as speaker in the first Congress. Rep. Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts served his third term as speaker in the 98th Congress.
When Boehner became speaker on Jan. 5, 2011, the federal government was operating under a continuing resolution that had been passed on Dec. 21, 2010 by a lame-duck Congress. That CR expired on March 4, 2011.
It’s not surprise that there are some House Republicans that want to bring back earmarks. Early last month, some in the caucus made it known that they want to end the moratorium on earmarks. But the push seems to have received more momentum as more House Republicans are making it publicly know that they want to bring earmarks, which Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) once called the “currency of corruption,” back into practice:
A group of Republicans is working on a game plan aimed at lifting the House ban on earmarks early next year.
While the frustrated GOP lawmakers concede that eradicating the ban is not going to happen this Congress, they have become more outspoken in recent weeks and months. Their goal is to change the House’s policy in 2013.
Conservative Rep. John Culberson (Texas) is the most recent GOP lawmaker to publicly push back against the ban that was formally adopted when Republicans took control of the House in 2011.
Culberson, the chairman of a military-construction appropriations panel, expressed exasperation earlier this week that he can’t expedite the expansion of a governmental military facility in Ohio, which is now slated for 2016.
“In light of new security threats to our country and our allies, expansion of [the Foreign Materials Exploitation Lab] is desperately needed now. And because of the earmark ban, I can’t move it … it’s just nuts,” Culberson told The Hill.
Culberson says he’s been “pounding” the leadership to move on the reforms, as well as “educating” his colleagues on the “urgency” of the situation.
By now you’ve heard that a company spent $200,000 from the federal “stimulus” to move a one shrub in the way of a $1 billion highway project near San Francisco. This sort one recent example is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wasteful spending flowing out of Washington.
If not for a few watchdogs, this would have flown under the radar. Thankfully, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has published its annual Pig Book, which serves as a guide for taxpayers to wasteful spending their representatives and Senators vote for in appropriations bills.
Many will no doubt take issue with what is or isn’t an earmark. Some members of Congress or supporters of a specific project may say that it’s needed in whatever way and shouldn’t be scrutinized. However, CAGW defines an earmark as any project:
- Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
- Not specifically authorized;
- Not competitively awarded;
- Not requested by the President;
- Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
- Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
- Serves only a local or special interest.
The report brings a rare bit of good news this year. According to CAWG, the number of earmarks passed by Congress “has dropped by 98.3 percent, from 9,129 in FY 2010 to 152 in FY 2012” and the cost “has decreased by 80 percent, from $16.5 billion in FY 2010 to $3.3 billion in FY 2012, which is the lowest amount since 1992.”
As you know, Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign yesterday, ostensibly handing the nomination over to Mitt Romney, who has been the target of ire from many conservatives during the race. Santorum’s decision doesn’t come with the best of circumstances due to his daughter’s recent hospitalization — and we may disagree with him, we do wish the best for he and his family.
But with his exit, let’s take a look back at some of the issues we had with Santorum, ranging from his statism on economic issues to his candidacy being a last resort for the anti-Romney faction of the GOP electorate.
Not a Fiscal Conservative: This has been a oft-repeated criticism of Santorum at United Liberty. While tried to pass himself off as a fiscal conservative, his record indicated otherwise. Santorum vigoriously defended his earmarks, supported tariff hikes, voted for Medicare Part D, was supportive of labor unions, and voted for every bloated budget passed under George W. Bush.