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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A Coburn Victory in Senate

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, gained Senate approval this morning of his amendment requiring explicit identification of earmarks in the 2007 Department of Homeland Security appropriation bill.

Here's Coburn's explanation for the amendment:

Some appropriation bills allow for earmarks or special projects and other directives included in the House version of an appropriations bill to be automatically approved by the Senate without being mentioned within the Senate version of these bills or their accompanying reports.

The following language is included in the Senate Committee report for the fiscal year 2007 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill (Report 109-275, page 8): "Any limitation, directive, or earmarking contained in either the House or Senate report which is not contradicted by the other report nor specifically denied in the conference report shall be considered as having been approved by both Houses of Congress."

Such language has, consequently, enabled many earmarks to become law without being voted on or approved by the Senate. This process has been used to hide millions of dollars of pork spending from the public.

While the DHS appropriations bill does not contain this language, it is important that the Senate is on record opposing such legislative shell game tactics that conceal how Congress spends tax dollars.

Taxpayers and members of Congress deserve to know what programs are being funded in all appropriations bills. Despite an incredible expansion in our economy and resulting record-high tax receipts, our country is sinking further into debt and has now amassed a deficit of $8.2 trillion.

This amendment will ensure that every earmark or directive must be included in the final Homeland Security Appropriations bill and approved by both Chambers of Congress. This will enable further transparency and debate on all spending in this appropriations bill and provide the American taxpayer an additional safeguard that their money is not wasted on unnecessary projects that jeopardize the nation's fiscal health and the living standard of their children and grandchildren.

The Senate previously accepted this same amendment by a vote of 55- 39 to the FY06 Agriculture Appropriations bill. It has also been accepted by unanimous consent to FY06 appropriations bills for Military Construction, the Department of Defense, Transportation, and Labor, Health, and Human Services.