Senate Appropriations Committee
Chairman Daniel K. Inouye
, (D-HI) announced
yesterday that the Committee will implement a moratorium on earmarks for the session of Congress that just began, meaning that earmarks will not be an option for the next two years. Sen. Inouye's statement puts the Senate in line with the House and the White House, as both Speaker of the House John Boehner
(R-OH) and President Obama have said that they would not support spending bills that contain earmarks.
It's clear from his statement
that Sen. Inouye is bending to political reality, even though he remains supportive of the value of earmarks, as long as the process is transparent and fair:
"I continue to support the Constitutional right of members of Congress to direct investments to their states and districts under the fiscally responsible and transparent earmarking process that we have established.
"However, the handwriting is clearly on the wall. The President has stated unequivocally that he will veto any legislation containing earmarks, and the House will not pass any bills that contain them. Given the reality before us, it makes no sense to accept earmark requests that have no chance of being enacted into law.
"The Appropriations Committee will thoroughly review its earmark policy to ensure that every member has a precise definition of what constitutes an earmark. To that end, we will send each member a letter with the interpretation of Rule XLIV (44) that will be used by the Committee. If any member submits a request that is an earmark as defined by that rule, we will respectfully return the request.
"Next year, when the consequences of this decision are fully understood by the members of this body, we will most certainly revisit this issue and explore ways to improve the earmarking process. At the appropriate time, I will once again urge the Senate to consider a transparent and fair earmark process that protects our rights as legislators to answer the petitions of our constituents, regardless of what the President or some Federal bureaucrat thinks is right."
As Sen. Inouye said, he will provide a copy of Senate Rule XLIV
to each member, which defines an earmark. Specifically, the rule says:
the term 'congressionally directed spending item' means a provision or report language included primarily at the request of a Senator providing, authorizing, or recommending a specific amount of discretionary budget authority, credit authority, or other spending authority for a contract, loan, loan guarantee, grant, loan authority, or other expenditure with or to an entity, or targeted to a specific State, locality or Congressional district, other than through a statutory or administrative formula-driven or competitive award process;