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.
The House of Representatives will vote on repeal of ObamaCare “in the near future,” according to a memo from Major Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). The memo, which was obtained by The Hill, outlines several policy measures — including ObamaCare repeal, approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and debt prioritization — that will be taken up by House Republicans over the next few weeks.
“In line with our underlying principles for legislation and our goal of helping make life work for American families and businesses, I expect the House to have a full legislative agenda in May,” wrote Cantor to the House Republican Conference (PDF). “We will push the administration to finally approve the Keystone pipeline delivering much needed jobs and lower energy prices for families. We will ensure that working moms and dads in the private sector have the same freedoms and flexibility currently offered government employees.”
“We will reform our student loan process and hold the SEC accountable so that business can be assured of more certainty and less red tape. We will put pediatric disease research ahead of politics to focus on finding cures,” he added. “And we will guarantee our debt obligations are met under any circumstance so as not to burden our kids with unpaid bills. While we have not locked in the timing, I expect that the House will vote on full repeal of ObamaCare in the near future.”
No other specifics were offered on ObamaCare repeal, but Cantor did outline the case for the other legislative matters that House Republicans will pursue before Congress adjourns for a district work period at the end of the month.
House Republicans are at a retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia for a few days this week hoping to find a strategy that will help the rebuild before the 2014 election and deal with President Obama during his second term.
Perhaps one of the biggest rumors that has come out of the retreat — noted yesterday afternoon on Twitter by Erick Erickson — is word that they will not put up a fight on raising the debt ceiling, which is set to be reached at some point in mid-February.
While he wasn’t that straightforward in comments to the media yesterday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has urged unity from his party on fiscal issues, said that a short-term hike would be passed if a large agreement on spending couldn’t be reach with the White House:
“We’re discussing the possible virtue of a short-term debt limit extension so that we have a better chance of getting the Senate and the White House involved in discussions in March,” Ryan told reporters gathered at the pricey Kingsmill resort in Williamsburg, where the House GOP is holding its annual retreat.
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.
Though they will not officially release it until later today, the House GOP’s “Pledge to America,” a play on “Contract with America” from 1994, leaked yesterday afternoon (you can view it at the bottom of the page):
Many of the reforms envisioned by House Republicans are highly unlikely ever to become law, but others foreshadow tough fights with President Barack Obama’s administration over spending, taxation and national security policy if Republicans win control of the House in November’s mid-term election. Another set would require simple changes to House rules.
The plan is divided into five parts: spending, jobs, government reform, national security and health care.
To cut spending, Republicans say they are committed to canceling remaining expenditures from the 2009 stimulus law, return domestic appropriations to 2008 levels, impose “hard” budget caps on discretionary spending accounts, reduce spending for congressional operations, have weekly floor votes on winners of the “YouCut” program that allows citizens to vote online for programs that should be slashed, end the Troubled Asset Relief Program, end government control of the secondary home-mortgage lending giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, freeze federal hiring for non-security jobs, sunset programs after a certain number of years, and use more straightforward budgeting for entitlement programs.