No more games on earmark reform 

Official Washington is playing three-card monte with taxpayers on earmark reform. Among those shuffling the cards are Republicans and Democrats, elected and appointed officials and career bureaucrats. The aim of this con game is to keep taxpayers from seeing what is really happening on earmarks — those spending measures anonymously inserted into bills and legislative reports by members of Congress to benefit friends, families and special interests without a public vote on the merits.

President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others are all shuffling the earmark reform cards and making it difficult for taxpayers to keep track of the situation. Bush seemed to take a firm position against earmarks in his State of the Union address but in fact only called for the elimination of half of them. After Bush told executive branch officials to list publicly all earmarks in spending bills, some executive branch appointees and bureaucrats said they would continue funding earmarks contained in bill reports, which typically include thousands of earmarks not in the bills themselves. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that bill reports do not carry the force of law.

In Congress, Reid has said he supports earmark reform, but he recently went out of his way trying unsuccessfully to kill Sen. Jim DeMint’s measure to get rid of virtually all earmarks. In the House, Pelosi has backed a strong earmark reform measure, but she’s not stopping House Appropriators and their staffs from rewriting the stop-gap ’07 Continuing Resolution funding the government through October to include new earmarks and other increased spending provisions.

These games must end. Bush, Reid and Pelosi should meet, agree on and then announce a common comprehensive strategy for eliminating all earmarks by a date certain, period.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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