It Must Be a “Mc” Thing
The U.S. Senate rejected today a proposal which would have placed new restrictions on congressional “earmark” bills.
Earmarks are line-item requirements in the federal budget that direct federal agencies to provide funding to specifically targeted organizations. This year, the average U.S. senator brought home more than $180 million in earmarked projects to their constituents ($28 million for representatives).
Earmarks are a huge problem at the federal level, because the benefits from such projects flow to small groups of interested individuals while the taxes used to pay for them are spread across the entire population as a whole. This diffusion of cost encourages the earmark practice, because it allows politicians to bring money to their constituents without putting the cost on them directly. The result is an ever-expanding federal budget, which this year passed the $3 trillion mark or more than $10,000 per U.S. citizen.
Sadly, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly rejected the bill’s earmark restriction. From Bloomberg’s coverage of the vote:
The proposal ran into opposition from senators in both parties as lawmakers said it would merely shift authority to make spending decisions to anonymous bureaucrats in the executive branch.
Fortunately, six Democrats and a handful of Republicans did vote for the bill’s adoption, including Missouri’s own Claire McCaskill, who has been a strong opponent of congressional earmark proposals. And to the best of my knowledge, only McCaskill and Sen. John McCain (the bill’s sponsor) were true to their vote, refusing to direct federal dollars into earmarked projects in any of the legislative bills they sponsored last year. That’s much better than the (transparent) electioneering support by Sens. Clinton and Obama, who voted for the bill, yet oversaw $342 and $98 million in earmarked projects last year, respectively.
The 29 senators who voted to approve the legislation should be commended for their commitment to reducing governmental spending on pet projects. It’s a shame that more elected officials don’t share their commitment to fiscal discipline.