Hold the Pork HostageNovember 15, 2007 - by Donny Shaw
With the process of funding the government for 2008 essentially stalled over a $22 billion disagreement between President Bush and Congress Democratic congressional leaders have come forward willing to compromise. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on Thursday that Congress will try to meet the President halfway by bundling together 11 of the 12 spending bills for the year (the Defense spending bill has already been signed into law) while reducing the total spending in the bills by $11 billion.
They plan on pushing the compromised budget measure past Bush by appealing to congressmen’s love of pork-barrel spending, or earmarks. Earmarks are spending requests that members of congress place within bills that go directly towards specific projects, most often in their districts. They are congressmen’s way of “bringing home the bacon” and they help them win in election season, either through securing funding for a legitimate need in the district, or by cementing relationships with wealthy campaign donors.
By threatening to cut all earmarks out of the budget before further sacrificing their policy priorities, the Democratic leadership is hoping to get enough Republicans behind the compromised budget to either pressure Bush into signing it, or to override his potential veto.
Congress Daily ($):
>Across the Capitol, House Democrats’ message to Republicans on the endgame appropriations fight was: Agree on a middle ground or kiss goodbye to earmarks and other favored programs that would be jettisoned by agreeing to Bush’s number. House Appropriations Chairman Obey warned fellow Democrats that those were the options, according to sources at the meeting. Obey declined to comment. But last week on the House floor during debate on the Labor-HHS bill, he warned that there was “not a chance of a snowball in Hades” of earmarks or other funding priorities surviving if forced to reduce spending to Bush’s proposal.
The offer forces Republicans to choose between sticking with President Bush and bringing their constituents funding for popular programs and needs.
To get an idea of what’s at stake for you in the deal, check out the Sunlight Foundation and Taxpayers for Common Sense’s important new website, EarmarkWatch.org. On the site you can look up what earmarks your representative has secured in the pending Labor-HHS-Education bill that would be dropped if the budget compromise is not enacted. Perhaps the bill holds money for a Family Health Centers and Community Colleges in your area like it does for me. Take a look and then contact your representative to let them know if you want your district gets its share of earmarks, or if you would rather they stuck by Bush and risked losing them.