Monday, June 19, 2006

The Continuing Scourge of Earmarks

Bob Novak has a great earmark column out there today.

(This is the heart of the corruption story. The GOP has not solved it, and the Dems are no better. The culture of corruption is a pox on both parties, in both the House and the Senate. Nothing has been solved, despite the Abramoff scandal, etc.)

“Jeff Flake, a 44-year-old third-term Republican congressman from Mesa, Ariz., last Wednesday burnished his credentials as "Miss Uncongeniality" in the House of Representatives. He introduced 12 amendments to the Transportation-Treasury-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill removing earmarks of individual House members, including two by chief appropriator Jerry Lewis. All of Flake's efforts failed.

That brought to 26 earmarks unsuccessfully proposed by Flake for removal from appropriations bills since May 24. There was no close vote and no serious debate. Republican and Democratic leaders alike voted to preserve earmarks…

While Flake had dozens of earmarks he could challenge, he chose two submitted by Appropriations Committee Chairman Lewis: $500,000 for swimming pool renovations in Banning, Calif. (affirmed 365-61), and $500,000 for a Crafton Hills College athletic facility in Yucaipa, Calif. (affirmed 368-58).

On the day before these votes, Lewis was reported by Roll Call newspaper to have hired a Los Angeles white-collar criminal lawyer to represent him in a federal investigation of his connection with a lobbying firm specializing in congressional earmarks. That did not inhibit Lewis from taking the House floor to browbeat Flake: "[Flake] seems to have much more confidence in bureaucrats downtown than he has in the members of the House."

…Appropriators stalk the House taking names of colleagues who dare disrupt logrolling. Every time, however, a coterie votes against pork. Their ranks include conservative reformers Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Mike Pence of Indiana, John Shadegg of Arizona and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. They can kiss goodbye goodies for their districts.

At Charlie Palmer's restaurant on Wednesday, assembled GOP campaign contributors cheered as John Boehner was introduced as the majority leader who never has sponsored an earmark. Later that day, Boehner voted against each of Flake's attempted earmark removals. In the House, one conservative reformer said to another seated beside him: "With this leadership, we never will get rid of earmarks."