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Reform Means What We Say It Means

How Can This Be?

by WINSLOW T. WHEELER

Just today, the text of HR 1591 and its report (House Report 110-60) for the new "emergency supplemental" to pay for the troop surge and other war costs have become available at Thomas.gov on the internet. As has already been widely reported, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey and Speaker Pelosi have added $21.3 billion to the cost of the bill as requested by President Bush (a total of $103.0 billion was requested). 

I was alerted by a former colleague from the Senate staff that page 238 of the committee report also contains the following statement: 

"EARMARKS: Pursuant to clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the House of Representatives, this bill, as reported, contains no congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in clause 9(d), 9(e), or 9(f) of rule XXI." (Emphasis added.)

Wow! $21.3 billion in add-ons and not a single earmark! Now, that’s reform! Right?

Not exactly, check out page 291 for the $25 million added for spinach producers. And, page 216 for $60 million for salmon fisheries. And, page 214 for $5 million for aquaculture. Other tables in the report appear to contain many more. (I’ll get back to you on that. It looks like a "target rich environment.")

Not earmarks? You could have fooled me. Having worked the congressional pork system for most of the 31 years I was on Capitol Hill, they sure smell, wallow, and oink like earmarks to me. The advocates will argue these are all desperately needed due to various crises. Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean they are not earmarks. In fact, there are "emergency earmarks" as they have the "emergency" designation.

In a November 14, 2006 commentary in the Christian Science Monitor, Speaker Pelosi said "We pledge to make this the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history." I wonder when she is going to start. Is "Porker Pelosi" a moniker that will soon fit?

WINSLOW T. WHEELER is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information and author of The Wastrels of Defense. Over 31 years, he worked for US Senators from both political parties and the Government Accountability Office on national security issues. He can be contacted at: winslowwheeler@comcast.net.