‘There Is No Merit in the System’

Conn Carroll /

Few members of Congress come to Washington to fight corrupting earmark spending. Usually new members come to Capitol Hill with the best intentions to help their constituents as best as they can … often including directing as much federal money as possible back to their district. Rep. John Kline (R-MN) was no different. When he first came to Congress, Kline fought as best he could do game the earmark system for the benefit of his district. But after one budget cycle when fellow member Rep. James Oberstar’s (D-MN) district received more in federal earmarks than the other seven Minnesota districts combined.

Kline told bloggers at the Heritage Foundation weekly lunch: “I realized there is no merit in the system. Oberstar got more money for bike paths alone than my district got for bridges and roads.” Since then Kline has requested no earmarks and his pushed other members to do the same. He was quick to praise Democrats Henry Waxman (CA) and Mark Udall (D) for also rejecting the corrupting earmark system.

On the Senate side, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is pushing an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that strikes all of the secret earmarks in the committee report out of the bill. If DeMint succeeds, the earmarks in the report will become meaningless. But if the bill goes through as written, the earmarks will have force of law. A step back from President Bush’s executive order directing federal agencies to ignore future earmarks included in committee reports.