Over on the homepage today, I’ve got a new piece up reporting that House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey is considering extending the moratorium on earmarks, which Democrats put into place back in January until they could figure out a “reformed process” for governing them. They lifted the moratorium in late February, pointing to a smattering of reforms they had passed including better disclosure requirements. But Obey says he’s gotten so many earmark requests this year (over 36,000), he needs more time to vet them. He recently announced that he won’t start putting earmarks into bills until they reach conference committee with the Senate.
This means that citizens, bloggers and porkbusting members of Congress would only have a few hours to look through thousands of earmarks for conflicts of interest and wasteful spending before appropriations bills would be put to a vote. Worse, members would not have any way to strip out bad earmarks and reduce spending by the amount they would have cost.
Obey’s announcement has drawn a lot of criticism, leading to his frustrated declaration to NRO yesterday that, ”I am still skeptical that we will have earmarks in the end, and I am skeptical because people get greedy and they screw up the whole process.” When asked if he meant that he might extend the moratorium, he said, “I have no idea if there are going to be earmarks in the bills or not.”
Rep. Jeff Flake, a leading budget hawk in the House, says he doubts Obey’s sincerity. But he adds that extending the moratorium would be a great idea, given the way the Democrats’ ”reformed process” has collapsed under the weight of members’ desires for ever-expanding shares of pork. More here.