Facing a potentially embarrassing defeat on earmarks tomorrow, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally decided to say something about Republicans’ request for an immediate earmark moratorium. In a letter to Minority Leader John Boehner tonight, Pelosi makes several misleading or downright inaccurate claims about the Democrats’ attempts to curtail earmarks.

The letter arrived only after Boehner and Whip Roy Blunt promised a showdown over earmarks tomorrow on a bill to reauthorize a higher education program. Boehner and Blunt had grown frustrated by Pelosi’s unwillingness to even reply to their request for an immediate earmark moratorium.

In her letter, Pelosi claimed Democrats instituted tough new rules related to earmarks and cut the number in half. Her first assertion has been challenged by conservatives such as Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint because the rules don’t go nearly far enough to bring transparency to the earmarking process. Her claim that Democrats cut the number of pork-barrel projects in half is completely false. There were 2,658 earmarks in fiscal 2007 and 11,043 in fiscal 2008. (See this chart above for more information.)

But most disappointing is Pelosi’s refusal to even ask her own caucus to adopt the new earmark standards Republicans have already unilaterally adopted.

The letter is below.

February 6, 2008

The Honorable John A. Boehner
House Republican Leader
H-204, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Leader Boehner:

Thank you for your January 25 letter concerning earmarks. It affords me an opportunity to reiterate how aggressively Democrats reformed the earmark process upon assuming control of Congress last year by instituting new policies that subjected all earmarks to public disclosure and transparency rules and cutting the total amount of earmarks nearly in half in just one year.

We look forward to working with you on additional improvements to the earmark rules for Congress, and agree with you that the large number of Presidential earmarks deserve the same scrutiny and restraint. They have received, and will continue to receive, that review under the Democratic majority.

Democrats will continue to hold the line on earmarks in the House and require unprecedented disclosure from Members in both parties who seek earmarks, as well as from the Administration.

Transparency is a critical component of honesty in government, a principle embodied in the Honest Leadership-Open Government ethics and lobbying reform bill Congress enacted with bipartisan support last year. Democrats look forward to working with you and your colleagues to maintain confidence in our nation’s finances.

Best Regards,
Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House