Senate Unlikely to Follow House's Lead on Earmarks

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espite last week’s promise by both parties in the House to cut back on earmarks it doesn’t look like the upper chamber will be joining them in their efforts any time soon. Senate lawmakers are pushing back against the call to reduce spending on lawmakers’ pet projects and without pressure from the White House they are unlikely to change their stance any time soon.

Last week House appropriations committee chairman David Obey of Wisconsin pushed the Democratic caucus to adopt a rule banning all earmarks to for-profit companies. House Republicans responded by adopting a one-year moratorium on all earmarks. Together the moves are projected to reduce the amount spent on earmarks by about $2.5 billion according to Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense.


Critics point out that for-profit companies receive less than 10 percent of all earmarks, but Ellis called the moves “a step in the right direction.”

“One of our recommendations for years has been to eliminate earmarks to for-profit companies,” Ellis said. “We’re not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. It is a smaller percentage of the overall number, but it is a major area of concern for issues surrounding corruption.”

Senate Appropriations chairman Daniel Inouye of Hawaii voiced strong opposition to the plan last week, arguing earmarks are an important tool for lawmakers appropriating federal dollars. Inouye has boasted in the past of his success steering federal dollars back to his state.

“I don’t believe this policy or ceding authority to the executive branch on any spending decision is in the best interests of the Congress or the American people. In my view, it does not make sense to discriminate against for-profit organizations. I am not sure why we should treat for-profit earmarks any differently than non-profit earmarks,” Inouye said.

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