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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

House to Vote on New Rule Making Earmark Sponsors Public; Rep. Emanuel Expected to Offer Amendment Ploy

House Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-OH, is the prime mover of a proposed rule that will be voted on tomorrow in the U.S. House of Representatives to make public the names of all Members of Congress sponsoring earmarks in spending bills.

Boehner explains the rule (go here for the text) and why it is important in a RedState.org post today:

"The proposed rules change in the House is straightforward. It specifies that when a bill comes to the floor that contains earmarks, it must be accompanied by a list identifying those earmarks, as well as the names of the members who requested them. The list would be publicly available for members, the media, and the general public to see.

"It's common sense: if you request a project, you ought to be willing to put your name on it and defend it. And if you aren't willing to put your name on a project, you shouldn't expect the American people to pay for it.

"The new rules will bring earmarking out of the shadows and into the light of public scrutiny. They will bring sunshine and transparency into the earmarking process, resulting in greater accountability from legislators and greater public confidence in how tax dollars are being spent."

Like Boehner says, it's just common sense. So why is the House only now considering this rule?

"There is a growing realization among legislators that the lack of transparency in the current earmarking process invites the perception of corruption. The American people - to their credit - are inherently suspicious of what goes on behind closed doors in government. It's in our DNA as Americans, and has been since 1776.

"Recent events have fanned the flames of this suspicion. The bribery confession of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) confirmed the current earmarking system can be manipulated by those with misguided intentions.

"Over the years, billions of federal dollars have been spent on projects, sometimes at the urging of lobbyists, without any public record of who requested them, and frequently without debate.

"The earmarking process is fundamentally flawed. No legislator, even one with the most noble of intentions, should have the power to anonymously spend millions of dollars in taxpayer money."

Like the man said, it's in our DNA as Americans. Go here for the full Boehner on RedState. And interested folks in the Blogosphere should be calling their congressmen to encourage them to vote for the Boehner earmarking rule.

By the way, it is true this is just a House rule, but since all appropriations bills must originate in the House under the Constitution and the House has to approve all conference reports, this rule would effectively include the Senate.

UPDATE: Captain's Quarters on Rep. Eamnuel earmarks amendment

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters is well-sourced on Capitol Hill and explains why the expected proposed amendment to the Boehner earmarks rule is not a good idea and almost certainly will be ruled out of order:

"I asked about a new effort by Rahm Emanuel to amend this rule with more language that would prevent Representatives from adding earmarks where they have a personal connection to the recipient.

"The staffer reminded me that amendments to rules changes are almost always out of order, and that the GOP leadership did not want to create the need to referee the earmarking process.

"In my opinion (and not that of the staffer), such a rule may sound fine but would likely result in earmark trading. In other words, two or more members would simply propose earmarks for another, expecting that his earmarks would follow in return, which would make accountability for influence that much harder to track.

"The GOP approach would simply allow citizens to know who earmarked funds for whom, and let the voters hold politicians accountable.

"Emanuel will attempt to offer the amendment during the debate, but will most likely be found out of order. The Democrats will then claim that the Republicans are not serious about earmark reform and use the refusal in the upcoming midterm elections.

"However, people should remember that Emanuel's proposal could simply be offered as a separate rule change and get its own vote. If it doesn't conflict with the pending rule change, both could be adopted and applied. If Emanuel doesn't offer the change separately, then we will know he never took it seriously."

Go here for the full Morrissey analysis.

UPDATE II: Tim Chapman looks under the House hood

And finds a lot that needs fixing, much of which will be taken care of by the proposed Boehner rule. By the way, he also got this great quote from an anonmyous House GOP staffer who clearly should be in the word business:

"Republicans all agree that there is a problem, but not everyone agrees on the exact solution. This rules change allows us to open up the hood of the car and figure out what is wrong with the engine. If we never even open up the hood of the car, than it will continue to backfire on us."

Go here for Tim's complete post. Any time you need to understand congressional rules and procedures, Tim is the first place to go.