President Bush may have promised to veto any spending bill that does not cut the number and cost of earmarks in half, but as commentators were quick to point out, since Democrats are planning on holding back spending bills till the next President takes office, the threat is virtually worthless. Equally unhelpful is the White House’s Executive Order directing federal agencies to ignore future earmarks included in committee reports but not in the voted on legislation. The next President could issue a new Executive Order his (or her) first second in office nullifying Bush’s policy on the issue.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called congressional and White House Republicans out for their inconsistency on the issue: “I think Republicans have pulled their punch on earmarks. It looked like a very lukewarm approach. They want to beat a loud drum, but when it comes down to it, they want their earmarks.”

It didn’t have to be this way. Bush had every right to issue an EO directing federal agencies to ignore earmarks included in the committee report from the current spending bill. Committee reports reflect the views of a particular committee, not Congress as a whole, and so they do not meet the bicameral passage requirement to attain the force of law as established in Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution. The following exchange from the Senate floor in 1982 illustrates this point:

Mr. ARMSTRONG. Mr. President, will the Senator tell me whether or not he wrote the committee report?
Mr. DOLE. Did I write the committee report?
Mr. DOLE. No; the Senator from Kansas did not write the committee report. …
Mr. ARMSTRONG. Mr. President, has the Senator from Kansas, the chairman of the Finance Committee, read the committee report in its entirety?
Mr. DOLE. I am working on it. It is not a bestseller, but I am working on it.
Mr. ARMSTRONG. Mr. President, did members of the Finance Committee vote on the committee report?
Mr. DOLE. No.
Mr. ARMSTRONG. Mr. President, the reason I raise the issue is not perhaps apparent on the surface, and let me just state it: …. The report itself is not considered by the Committee on Finance. It was not subject to amendment by the Committee on Finance. It is not subject to amendment now by the Senate. … If there were matter within this report which was disagreed to by the Senator from Colorado or even by a majority of all Senators, there would be no way for us to change the report. I could not offer an amendment tonight to amend the committee report.

A party cannot pretend to be against wasteful undemocratic spending while at the same time participating in the process that allows these practices to continue.

Quick Hits:

  • A new study predicts China “will soon pass the United States in the critical ability to develop basic science and technology, turn those developments into products and services – and then market them to the world.”
  • According to the Associated Press, since Democrats are “short of the votes needed to bring troops home, but tied to a support base that wants nothing less” few of them are looking forward to addressing a White House request for another $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The Financial Times reports that the “era of free markets unleashed by Margaret Thatcher and reinforced by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s” is under assault from “government efforts to reassert control over their economies and to use this to enhance their global influence.”
  • A federal judge ruled that Marriott Inc. is guilty of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act for not providing special golf carts to three disabled golfers. The golfers suffered through the greatest civil rights violation of all time when Marriott failed to provide carts with hand-operated brakes and accelerators and rotating swivel seats that enable ‘mobility-impaired people’ to hit a golf ball while seated.