As a proposal to require full disclosure of all Senate earmarks languishes, senators have not claimed responsibility for at least $7.5 billion worth of projects approved by the Appropriations Committee, according to an analysis by a budget watchdog group.The Senate is making a distinction without a difference. Like most spending bills, there is pork and there is pork. Senators and Congressmen should be up front about their earmarks. I don't think the American people are opposed to earmarks but rather they are opposed to the manner in which earmarks make into spending bills, in the dark of night and without attribution.
Under seven of 10 spending bills approved by the panel, more than $26 billion has been earmarked for projects sought by both senators and the Bush administration, leaving nearly 30 percent unaccounted for, according to numbers compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
“Part of the whole effort of transparency is to move the budget out of the shadows and into the light,” said Steve Ellis, the group’s vice president for programs. “The public deserves to know what Congress and the administration are doing with their tax dollars.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee refutes the findings, arguing that the group misinterpreted a host of appropriations requirements as earmarks. For instance, the panel argues that $6.5 billion requested by the Pentagon for the base realignment and closure program was considered “undisclosed earmarks” by the group’s analysis of the military construction spending bill.
But with no clear rules in place, the dispute highlights the murky nature of what exactly constitutes an earmark, or a directive to spend a specific amount of money for an individual project.
Senators, be forthright, it is unlikely you will be punished unless you make stupid earmark requests.