Washington, Jan 8 -
Last week, the House of Representatives passed the strong earmark reform measures that I have been promoting throughout the last year. The measure takes a great step forward for restoring fiscal discipline to the ways of Washington.
Earmarks are Member-requested funding for local pet projects. Sometimes, the projects are well-worth Federal financial assistance. Sometimes, they are little more than political hand-outs. It has long been my contention that by making all earmarks open to public scrutiny, we could easily weed out the legitimate earmarks from the others, thus preserving taxpayer dollars for real Federal priorities.
Last year, I supported a measure passed by the House that would have required all appropriations bills to list earmarks and the Members requesting them. But, I also offered an amendment to that measure that would have applied those same accountability measures to tax bills and authorization bills, which are also traditionally laden with costly earmarks. In fact, one of the most infamous earmarks – the $315 million Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska – was actually tucked into a highway transportation authorization bill. That same authorization legislation included more than 6,000 earmarks. By contrast, the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste identified 9,963 earmarks in the appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2006, for a total of $29 billion.
The earmark reform legislation passed by the House last week included the expanded accountability that I have pushed and I am looking forward to seeing how this transparency will help to return the focus to the family budget.
Member of Congress
I put the whole thing up so as not to be accused of taking something out of context, because no where in this official e-mail to constituents does he mention he voted against the reform. Garrett gives an explanation at the very end of a press release regarding the vote, which was posted on the site before the Gazette:
"Regrettably," continued Garrett, "the Democrat leadership also chose to approve a change to budget rules that could have no purpose other than to justify tax increases. And, that I could not support. It is a shame that in taking the step forward with strong earmark reform, the Democrat leadership chose to take two steps back in fiscal discipline."
Now I felt, upon reading this that it was a step in the right direction for our overly secretive Rep. because at least he admitted he had voted against the reforms and said why. The problem comes when the Garrett Gazette is e-mailed to constituents, and not the full statement. It makes it seem like his "support" equals his vote for earmark reform, which is universally supported outside of special interest offices. However, the truth is he voted against the provision.
It's this sort of misrepresentation of the truth that makes people distrust politicians at all levels. I may disagree with his sound bite from the press release regarding PAYGO (a post for another day) but I thought for once he was taking a stand and letting us know why he voted the way he did. The incomplete picture in the Gazette points out that in fact no, there hasn't been a change of behavior. So I guess it's one step forward and two steps back for him.