Council for Citizens Against Government Waste: Proposed Earmark Moratorium Should Be Supported

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(Washington, D.C.) –The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) today congratulated Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for demonstrating wise leadership and a willingness to respond to the drastically altered political climate in Washington, D.C. by supporting an earmark moratorium.

Immediately following the elections on November 2, Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) called on their colleagues to adopt an earmark moratorium as part of the Senate Republicans’ rules for the upcoming Congress.  “Leader McConnell is responding to the call by taxpayers on Election Day for a real change in Washington,” said CCAGW President Tom Schatz.  “Rather than bickering over earmarks, Senate Republicans should set them aside for now, and eventually bury them forever, in order to address the much larger spending problems facing the country.”  As Leader McConnell said in his statement, “Banning earmarks is another small but important symbolic step we can take to show that we’re serious, another step on the way to serious and sustained cuts in spending and to the debt.”  CCAGW urges all Senate Republicans to vote for the moratorium.

“The statement today by Leader McConnell is a major step in the right direction toward ending earmarks, and a huge victory for the taxpayers groups that have been fighting for the moratorium,” added Schatz.  “House Republicans lost their majority after earmarks went from $7.8 billion in 1994 to a record $29 billion in 2006.  They regained the majority this year following a self-imposed moratorium on the practice.  That is not a coincidence, and the same result could occur for Senate Republicans in 2012.”

The last bastion of earmark defenders is now Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who said in 2006 that earmarking has been going on “since we were a country.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In the early years of the Republic, constitutional objections from members of Congress, the president, and state legislatures were effective in limiting parochial spending.  Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison in 1796 that Madison’s proposition to improve roads for national mail delivery would be “a scene of eternal scramble among the members, who can get the most money wasted in their State; and they will always get most who are meanest.”  President James Monroe said in 1822 that federal money should be limited “to great national works only, since if it were unlimited it would be liable to abuse and might be productive of evil.”

Many members of Congress who cite the Constitution as the basis for earmarks also claim that the executive branch will have too much power if earmarks are eliminated.  It is absurd to make this claim when those same members agree that earmarks constitute one-half of one percent of federal spending.  To solve any problems, members should conduct oversight hearings and adopt legislation to change the way the money is being spent.

“Since CAGW issued the first Congressional Pig Book in 1991, we have documented 109,952 earmarks worth $307.8 billion.  We applaud Leader McConnell, Sens. DeMint and Coburn, and all of the taxpayer groups that have joined this battle against some of the most egregious government waste,” concluded Schatz.

CCAGW is the lobbying arm of Citizens Against Government Waste, the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

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