Inhofe interview on pork, global warming, and Gitmo

posted at 12:15 pm on March 11, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Earlier today, I spoke with Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), and got into a bit of a debate with him over the issue of earmarks. Last Friday, Inhofe offered a spirited defense of Congressional privilege in the National Journal (subscription required), using a separation-of-powers argument that has some merit:

Inhofe argues that earmarks have funded many programs that conservatives support, particularly in national defense. As the second-ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, behind McCain, Inhofe notes that Congress has used earmarks to keep several military programs chugging along despite executive branch objections, including additional C-17 cargo planes that President Obama fought against last year. McCain offered an amendment to the Defense appropriations bill that would have nixed the funds for the extra planes, but Inhofe and 63 other senators defeated it.

Instead of imposing an earmark moratorium, Inhofe proposes a freeze in nonsecurity appropriations at fiscal 2008 levels, a move that he says would save $600 billion more than Obama’s proposal in February to freeze such spending at fiscal 2010 levels. He also maintains that individual projects should be assessed on their merits, not on whether they are deemed to be earmarks. …

Inhofe said that if Congress bans earmarks, his fallback position is that they should be defined only as projects that receive appropriations without having been previously authorized by Congress. Inhofe is a chief authorizer — for transportation programs at the Environment and Public Works Committee and for military programs at the Armed Services Committee. He and other authorizers regularly struggle for power with appropriators, who often have their own ideas about which projects to fund in their annual spending bills.

He and I disagreed on this issue, but I do acknowledge the balance-of-power issue, and Inhofe acknowledges the abuse, especially when it comes to no-bid contracting. It’s a good debate, one which will get more visibility as earmark bans proceed in both chambers.

However, we agree on most other issues, including runaway federal spending and skyrocketing deficits. We also talk about global warming, the closure of Gitmo, and Eric Holder’s failure to disclose his amicus brief to the Senate:

Inhofe is launching the HELP Act today. The following release is from Inhofe’s office:

Citing out-of-control deficit spending by the federal government, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today introduced the Honest Expenditure Limitation Program (HELP) Act of 2010 to rein in government spending. The act, co-sponsored by Sens. Burr (R-N.C.) and Barrasso (R-Wy.), would result in nearly $900 billion in savings over a 10 year period.

“If we do nothing to curtail skyrocketing government spending, or merely freeze it at artificially elevated levels for a few years, as President Obama proposes, we will find ourselves in a tragic situation,” Inhofe said. “The clock is ticking. Congress must act. By reducing non-security discretionary spending levels to 2008 levels, and then holding them there through 2020, our nation can save nearly $900 billion. My HELP Act saves $634 billion more than President Obama’s spending freeze proposal, and is a serious approach to our growing fiscal crisis.”

Barrasso said, “The American people realize the debt is the threat. President Obama hasn’t demonstrated he understands the seriousness of our current situation. Even though he has made a lot of promises about reducing the deficit, his budget contains unprecedented levels of wasteful spending. We need fewer grand promises and fewer wasteful programs. The Administration and Congress must make tough decisions to reduce America’s massive deficit. The HELP Act is an important piece of legislation that will help ensure our children and grandchildren’s hopes and dreams are not buried in debt.”

Burr said, “Our current fiscal path is unsustainable, and I believe it is morally wrong for us to saddle the next generation with a massive national debt. This bill, which could save taxpayers almost $900 billion over the next decade by capping federal spending, is a big step in the right direction to reining in Washington’s out of control spending habits.”


Ø The proposal would freeze discretionary spending at FY08 levels for all “non-security” appropriations, which exclude Defense, Homeland Security, State, Veterans Administration, and national security functions of Energy.

Ø The spending freeze at the 2008 level would be phased in over 5 years from FY11 to FY15, reducing the cap by an equal percentage each year. From FY15 to FY20, the cap would remain at the FY08 level until the legislation expires at the end of FY20.

Ø The freeze would be enforced through sequestration. Any total non-security appropriations enacted that breach the FY08 cap would be tallied by the Office of Management and Budget and excess amounts above the cap would be rescinded through an across-the-board cut by the Administration (compelled by law). This proposal would ensure that a major portion of the federal budget is subjected to a credible and effective spending restraint.

Ø A 67-vote Point Of Order in the Senate would be triggered by any appropriations bill that causes the total non-security discretionary cap for a Fiscal Year to be breached. It would also be triggered by a provision in any legislation, amendment, or conference report that attempted to legislatively exempt new spending from sequestration. The type of sequestration process this proposal contemplates existed in the 1990s with limited success because Congress would routinely use legislation to exempt new spending from the process. The Point Of Order would make doing so much more difficult.

Ø Spending for overseas military operations would be exempt from the cap.

Ø Using the Obama Administration’s own numbers and assumptions, this proposal would save $634 billion more than enacting Obama’s proposed spending freeze by 2020, and it would save close to $900 billion over the same 10 years compared to doing nothing.

Jeb Hensarling and Mike Pence are pursuing another approach to the same goal, a cap on federal spending to 20% of GDP. Conservatives on Capitol Hill are going to make spending and deficits a big issue in November — and this time, the voters may be ready for some action.

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If something is needed, why not have another vote? Go ahead and let congress vote for each appropriation. Sure it may bore the CSPAN audience even moreso, but those people who watch it non-stop must already be braindead.

jeffn21 on March 11, 2010 at 12:19 PM

and this time, the voters may be ready for some action.

I fear that if the politicians to not act this, the number of limitet government voters in future elections will decrease as this group resigns itself to fate.

WashJeff on March 11, 2010 at 12:22 PM

Can we please pass Flake’s bill that would require which provision in the constitution grants the power to implement a bill?

WashJeff on March 11, 2010 at 12:24 PM

We need fewer grand promises and fewer wasteful programs.

Don’t worry, The Ossiah can stop the raising waters with a wave of his hand, it won’t cost us a penny!

Tony737 on March 11, 2010 at 12:29 PM

our buddy mccain at work, taking more freedoms away…

By Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA,

On Friday, February 19, 2010, Bill O’Reilly discussed recent legislation introduced by Arizona Senator John McCain (the Dietary Supplement Safety Act; S.3002) to impose new regulations on dietary supplements (vitamins, etc.) with Suzanne Somers. He made several points that are quite reasonable: that there should be warnings on labels, that we should know what is in the products, that manufacturers should be registered with the FDA, that ingredients should be disclosed, and that the FDA should have recall authority. I heartily agree with these common sense statements but need to point out that these elements are already mandated by current federal regulations that simply may be inadequately enforced.

As in other fields, a few shady operators ignore laws when profits can be made by cheating. The answer to the occasional scofflaw is strict enforcement of existing law; without enforcement, both current and new laws would be equally worthless. But Mr. McCain’s proposed new law will severely decimate law-abiding companies in a misguided effort to import an unpopular regulatory scheme from Canada that gives unelected government bureaucrats absolute power over already-regulated vitamin products. Canadians now cross the border to buy American vitamins because their own government arbitrarily delays entry of new products for years at a time, miserly approving only 42% of products that have been submitted with all the required safety and efficacy documentation.

Current laws can accomplish Mr. O’Reilly’s goals, if they are enforced. Dietary supplement manufacturers are already registered with the government, are already required to submit label claims to the FDA, are already prohibited from making medical claims for dietary supplements, and are already required to identity-test and list all ingredients on product labels. Ingredients that have been on the market for many years are already pre-approved by the FDA and all new ingredients must be specially pre-approved before going to market. All mislabeled products are considered adulterated and subject to mandatory recall. A recent adverse event reporting law promptly lets the FDA know of virtually any problem requiring medical attention in order to trigger recalls and new label warnings, This does not sound like an unregulated industry, even if enforcement can be improved in some areas.

What we don’t want is the FDA, an agency that is cozy with pharmaceutical interests, to have complete power over every new vitamin formula that is merely a variation of already-approved ingredients. That kind of permanent government takeover will strangle an important health industry that in a free market added jobs and exports during the recession. Vitamins help Americans meet basic nutritional needs in a cost-effective manner without government funding and may have actually decreased some Medicare spending, according to the conclusions of authoritative Lewin Group reports. Understand and enforce the current laws before proposing a virtual federal takeover of an industry that is law-abiding, has welcomed recent regulations that have empowered federal authority over it, and would suffer great harm from a huge increase in unnecessary government interference.

Think about it: If you were driving on the highway at 55 miles per hour and occasionally some jerk speeds by at 90, would dropping the speed limit to 45 correct the problem? Of course not. It obviously makes more sense to station additional cops along that stretch of highway to enforce current traffic laws than to collectively punish all drivers. Why is enforcement of vitamin laws any different? Target the outlaws, not the innocent!

jsunrise on March 11, 2010 at 12:30 PM

Inhofe is tha MAN!!!
I still can’t believe a movie hasn’t been made on his trip to Copenhagen and the fallout.

abobo on March 11, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Can we please pass Flake’s bill that would require which provision in the constitution grants the power to implement a bill?

WashJeff on March 11, 2010 at 12:24 PM

No can do today. Fox is reporting that the Democrat’s have cleared their calenders today to hold closed door meetings on healthcare.


Knucklehead on March 11, 2010 at 12:35 PM

If the honorable Senator Inhofe would provide his colleague, Senator Graham, with a goodly portion of gentlemanly scorn and ridicule for his global warming advocacy, it would be greatly appreciated.

midlander on March 11, 2010 at 12:50 PM

Report Says California Global Warming Law Will Cause Job Losses

MarkTheGreat on March 11, 2010 at 12:53 PM

It’s all nice and fine to disagree about earmarks and have a spirited debate and whatnot… and meanwhile the country goes broke, the corruption continues and it gets worse and worse. What now?

WitchDoctor on March 11, 2010 at 12:57 PM

First 20ppm of CO2 accounts for over half the potential heating affect of CO2. Each doubling beyond that gets you only half way to 100%

20ppm 50%
40ppm 75%
80ppm 87.5%
160ppm 93.75%
320ppm 96.875%
640ppm 98.3375%

Everybody is whining about increasing CO2 from 280ppm to 560ppm. That takes CO2 from about 95% saturated to about 98% saturated. Big freaking deal. Beyond that CO2 is one of the weakest greenhouse gasses to begin with, and most of the bands that it does absorb in are shared with H2O.

MarkTheGreat on March 11, 2010 at 1:04 PM

Someone should find out what JIM WALLIS, Obamas other Jeremiah Wright thinks about Global Warming………..then you’ll have some insight into where this is all headed.

Ladies and Gentlemen…..we have a MARXIST in the White House……..will this country survive?

Okay, benefit of the doubt time…..maybe HE’S not a Marxist but most of his closest advisors/mentors have been America hating Marxists.

Hope you got to listen to Beck today.

PappyD61 on March 11, 2010 at 1:05 PM

Is it possible that the reason McCain didn’t really “FIGHT” Obama is because he and Obama are really after the same thing?

PROGRESSIVE CONTROL over Global Warming, Immigration, Healthcare, etc.

PappyD61 on March 11, 2010 at 1:09 PM

Congress has and needs discretion to act for the necessary good, its the fraud and abuse that has to be stopped.

Since the Sahara desert was at its driest during the ice age does that mean global warming will make the Sahara the new Palm Springs?

Speakup on March 11, 2010 at 1:42 PM

I’m confused. What does Inhofe mean about “sending all that money to the president” if earmarks are banned?

sax-maniac on March 11, 2010 at 1:42 PM

I don’t mind earmarks nearly so much when they’re added and debated openly. It’s when they are stealthily added in with no ones name on them, that’s when they’re pure abuse.

And Congress lost control of the deficit when they passsed Impoundment Control in 1974. The spenders have too much the advantage now, here are the changes I’d like to see:

1. Impoundment made an explicit Executive power, overridable by Congress the same way a Presidential veto can be overridden.

2. Term limits on Congress and the bureaucracy. To prevent violating the spirit by people moving around, the limit on the bureaucracy would be a total time in civil service. I’d only agree to exemptions for appointive positions that have to be approved by Congress.

LarryD on March 11, 2010 at 1:48 PM

Beyond that CO2 is one of the weakest greenhouse gasses to begin with

My apologies if I can’t be driven to an hysterical state by exhaling what all green things need to continue to exist. I have a solution;

Step 1) everyone who believes CO2 is a pollutant, purchases and plants one tree a day for the next 30 days

Step 2) everyone who believes CO2 is a pollutant then refuses to exhale for 24 hours.

Step 3) Man-Made Glo-bull Warming solved!

oldleprechaun on March 11, 2010 at 2:22 PM

Since the Sahara desert was at its driest during the ice age does that mean global warming will make the Sahara the new Palm Springs?

Speakup on March 11, 2010 at 1:42 PM

I could have sworn the Sahara was wet during the last ice age. Were those Discovery channel specials that talked about hippos in the Sahara 20,000 years ago wrong?

MarkTheGreat on March 11, 2010 at 3:03 PM

Thanks for the interview, Ed!

Maquis on March 12, 2010 at 1:19 AM