From Earmarks To ImmigrationJune 14, 2007 - by Donny Shaw
It appears that House leaders are ready to strike a deal on how to move forward with considering spending bills for fiscal year 2008. Republicans this week have stalled floor debate on the first of these bills — which number 12 in total — because, they say, they want all earmarks that are going to be included in the final bill to be included in the bills as the House debates them. Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D, WI) had been planning to withhold the earmarks until after the House and Senate spending bills had gone to conference committees for reconciliation, when they return to the House floor for a final vote.
Earmarks are funds specifically set aside in spending bills by lawmakers to be used for projects affecting their state and constituents. In the 12 years that Republicans controlled Congress, earmarked spending increased dramatically and, spearheaded by Senator Ted Stevens’ (R, AK) infamous $223 million earmark for the “”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravina_Island_Bridge">Bridge to Nowhere," became the symbol of wasteful government spending. Here’s where the earmark-disclosure deal stands right now (via subscription-only Congress Daily):
>Under the proposal from Democrats, beginning next week with the domestic spending bills, Obey would list House members’ projects up front instead of waiting until the bills had passed the House, as he originally intended.
>Obey’s office would not comment on the prospective deal late Wednesday. But Obey decided to cancel today’s planned markup of the Labor-HHS spending bill, a sign that appropriators would go back and insert earmarks.
>A Democratic leadership aide said there was agreement in principle between Hoyer and Boehner to allow the Homeland Security and Military Construction bills to move this week, while including earmarks in the remaining 10 bills and allowing members to challenge any projects that are “airdropped” into conference reports.
If this deal is agreed upon, the House will move towards finishing work on the Homeland Security appropriations bill this week. The debate will likely take up some of the border and interior enforcement issues that were left unfinished when the Senate halted their work on immigration reform. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D, AZ) outlined some of the ways the bill already bolsters border security:
>The bill we are discussing today provides $8.8 billion for the Customs and Border Protection agency, which is $50 million above the President’s request and $647 million-nearly 8 percent-above FY 2007. It provides funding for 3,000 additional Border Patrol agents in FY 2008 – which will bring the number of Border Patrol agents to 17,819 by the end of FY 2008.
>The bill also funds the SBI, or Secure Border Initiative, at the President’s requested level of $1 billion. It requires the Department of Homeland Security to justify how it plans to use these funds to achieve operational control of our borders.
There are dozens of Republican amendments addressing immigration enforcement measures waiting to be offered. Anti-immigration organization NumbersUSA got ahold of a list of these amendments:
- Prohibit paying government contractors for their work unless a contractor participates in the Basic Pilot employment verification program and verifies the eligibility of their workers to hold jobs in the United States (Rep. Darrell Issa [R-Calif.]);
- Add $150 million for grants to state and local governments for implementation of the REAL ID program, which requires state driver’s licenses to meet minimum standards, by May 2008, in order to be used for Federal identification purposes (Rep. Brian Bilbray [R-Calif.]);
- Prohibit Federal funds from being distributed to state and local governments who refuse to share information with Federal immigration authorities by adopting “sanctuary policies”(separate amendments by Reps. John Campbell [R-Calif.] and Tom Tancredo [R-Colo.]);
- Strike all requirements in the bill that would delay or preclude construction of the border fencing required under current law (Rep. Tom Price [R-Ga.]);
- Prohibit the use of funds to carry out the “visa waiver” program (Rep. Tancredo); and
- Prohibit the use of funds to carry out the visa lottery program (Rep. Tancredo).
There are many other immigration-related amendments listed on their site, along with some discussion of their positions on them and their chances of being approved.