Earmark reform (State of the Union follow-up)

Here’s what the President said last night in the State of the Union about earmarks:

The people’s trust in their government is undermined by congressional earmarks — special interest projects that are often snuck in at the last minute, without discussion or debate. Last year, I asked you to voluntarily cut the number and cost of earmarks in half. I also asked you to stop slipping earmarks into committee reports that never even come to a vote. Unfortunately, neither goal was met. So this time, if you send me an appropriations bill that does not cut the number and cost of earmarks in half, I’ll send it back to you with my veto. (Applause.)

And tomorrow, I will issue an executive order that directs federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on by Congress. If these items are truly worth funding, Congress should debate them in the open and hold a public vote. (Applause.)

Here is the Executive Order that the President signed this afternoon.

If you’re interested in perusing earmarks, go to OMB’s excellent earmark website.

You can search bills from 2005. OMB is updating the database for more recent laws.

I suggest you try searching for “museum” in the “Search Earmarks full text” box. I got 273 results.

Here are results of a few other searches:

“genome” – $1.2 M for trout genome mapping at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV and the Agricultural Research Service in Leetown, WV (in report language)

“dinosaur – $99,000 for environmental improvements for preservation of the dinosaur collection in Pittsburgh, PA. (in the law)

“hockey – $129,000 for the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association in Chicago, IL (in report language)

“paint” – $1.5 M for a Virtual Reality Spray Paint Simulator System and Training Program at Fakespace Systems in Marshalltown, IA (in report language)

In addition, the huge “omnibus” appropriations bill the President signed at the end of last year contained these two earmarks in report language:

  • $846,000 for a Father’s Day Rally Committee
  • and $178,600 for New York City’s American Ballet Theater

There are three components to our new policy on earmarks:

  1. a veto threat if an appropriations bill does not cut the number and cost of earmarks in half from 2008 levels;
  2. direction to agencies that they should ignore earmarks in report language in future bills; and
  3. direction to […]