House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey is trying hard to fend off criticism — including from newspapers in his home state — that he is not effectively implementing the House’s new rules governing earmarks:
Yesterday, Obey came out with a new plan to issue a list before the August recess of all the earmarks appropriators plan to take to conference committee in September. That would put them under public scrutiny for the month of August.
Members would be invited to “question or challenge” any request, the author can respond, and the committee will decide whether to take it to conference.
But members still would be unable to try to strike the earmarks on the floor, because their only vote will be on a conference report.
Obey said there is little point in trying to strike earmarks on the floor, because such attempts never work. He noted that Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has tried at least 14 times to strike earmarks without success.
That’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Flake’s prior attempts to strike earmarks happened before the new disclosure rules took effect. Now that the sponsor and beneficiary of each earmark will be a matter of public record, Flake can identify instances in which a lawmaker is simply rewarding a campaign contributor with a lucrative project, thus making his case against such earmarks much stronger.
That is, he could do that if Obey would subject earmarks to full scrutiny and debate on the House floor rather than dropping them in at the last minute. I’m told House Republicans are taking action on this issue today. The RSC Blog and Boehner’s site will have more details.