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A Blow Against Earmarks

If you listened to the recent State of the Union Address, you heard President Bush complain about earmarks … and, importantly, announce that he was going to do something about them. He did.

Executive Order 13457, titled "Protecting American Taxpayers From Government Spending on Wasteful Earmarks", is among the best things Bush has done. It says that:

… executive agencies should not commit, obligate, or expend funds on the basis of earmarks included in any non-statutory source, including requests in reports of committees of the Congress or other congressional documents, or communications from or on behalf of Members of Congress, or any other non-statutory source …

In other words, earmarks must be included in the actual legislation Congress votes on, and may not be added after the vote. And more, it shines light on those who try to influence how money is spent:

An agency shall not consider the views of a House, committee, Member, officer, or staff of the Congress with respect to commitments, obligations, or expenditures to carry out any earmark unless such views are in writing … All written communications from the Congress, or a House, committee, Member, officer, or staff thereof, recommending that funds be committed, obligated, or expended on any earmark shall be made publicly available on the Internet by the receiving agency, not later than 30 days after receipt of such communication …

This executive order probably won't make a big difference on discretionary spending, although I will be curious to compare the quantity of earmarks today with the quantity a year from now. For me, the victory here is procedural. If Congress wants money spent a certain way, let them put it in the legislation and let them be accountable for it.


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