Cynical Synapse

Fri, 26 Jun 2009

Obama: “Soft” Earmarks are OK

Filed under: Congress, Economy, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 7:42 am

Obama's nose grows

President Obama requested $84.3 for the “last” supplemental appropriations bill. While supplementals have been the funding mechanism for the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror, Obama believes Overseas Contingency Operations should be included in the base budget. But the FY-09 budget comes from his predecessor, so he’s hostage to the supplemental process this time around. In principle, which is Obama’s key point, a supplemental is an emergency funding mechanism for unforseen circumstances. It’s now 7-1/2 years since 9/11/2001.

So here’s the path this year’s supplemental has taken. The House added $9.3 billion to the President’s request. Although military-related, the adds intend to keep constituents working, even on cancelled projects like the C-17. Then the Senate chewed on the bill, adding $1.9 billion of its own and $9 billion President Obama requested for the International Monetary Fund and H1N1. The Senate chopped $9.3 billion from the House version to make up for the adds. In conference, the House and Senate came up with a final bill totalling $105.9 billion. That’s $21.6 billion more than the President originally requested!

For the original House Resolution, the House overwhelmingly supported the measure 368 to 60. After their ammendments, the Senate voted 86-3 in favor. The differences were referred to conference between the chambers and the result was a new HR 2346 presented to the President. One of the non-emergency provisions is the so-called “cash for clunkers” provision.

Michigan Senators Levin and Stabinow, both Democrats, voted yes for the first Senate mod and the final conference bill. Michigan’s representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of the original House resolution. On the final version, all the Republicans—except Miller—voted no. Only Ehlers (R) and Conyers (D) voted no on both versions.

District Representative Party 05/14 Vote 06/16 Vote
1 Stupak D Yea Yea
2 Hoekstra R Yea No
3 Ehlers R No No
4 Camp R Yes No
5 Kildee D Yea Yea
6 Upton R Yea No
7 Schauer D Yea Yea
8 Rogers R Yea No
9 Peters D Yea Yea
10 Miller R Yea Yea
11 McCotter R Yea No
12 Levin D Yea Yea
13 Kilpatrick D Yea Yea
14 Conyers D No No
15 Dingell D Yea Yea

And that’s, largely, the issue. Democrats tended to vote in favor and Republicans tended to vote against the conference bill on supplemental appropriations. There must be obvious flaws in the bill when you see 151 Republican Representatives change their votes from yes to no. To me, that’s a red star cluster (or red flag). Here’s what I said on the White House contact web form:

HR 2346, as amended and agreed to by the House and Senate, must be vetoed. While the bill doesn’t contain the “traditional” earmarks, it is $21.6 billion higher than the President’s original request. These additions must be considered earmarks and, therefore, contrary to President Obama’s stated policy of not signing legislation containing earmarks.

In its present form, this bill is highly politicized, with 24 additional House Democrats voting yes on the conferee version over the original House version. Only 2 House Democrats changed their votes to no, compared to the original version, while 151 Republican representatives did so. This casts serious doubt on House Bill 2346 as the best solution for supplementary appropriations. By itself, this should be sufficient to warrant President Obama’s veto.

Our service men and women deserve better. Our country deserves better. It’s time to be fiscally responsible while also getting the job done. If $84.3 billion is what’s needed, then that’s all the supplemental should include. Anything else is a violation of the trust of the American people and the military serving on our behalf.

Unfortunately, our so-called representatives played politics as usual. Since President Obama wasted no time in signing the bill into law, he sent the message that’s just fine. If “soft” earmarks are ok, why not blatant markups? And, taxpayers have an unnecessary $22 billion added to the national debt.

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