The defeat last night of the OmniPorkulus bill, as the Boss Emeritus calls it, gives us a chance to revisit the long-held — and long-true — belief that both parties are equally addicted to pork-barrel spending. That certainly proved true enough when Republicans held power, as earmarks skyrocketed and both parties squealed with delight at the trough. However, a new study by a coalition of of watchdog groups on the FY2011 budget proposal shows that one party has made great strides in weaning itself from K Street slop in the past year — and it’s not the Democrats, as Byron York reports:
A new analysis by a group of federal-spending watchdogs shows a striking imbalance between the parties when it comes to earmark requests. Democrats remain raging spenders, while Republicans have made enormous strides in cleaning up their act. In the Senate, the GOP made only one-third as many earmark requests as Democrats for 2011, and in the House, Republicans have nearly given up earmarking altogether — while Democrats roll on.
The watchdog groups — Taxpayers for Common Sense, WashingtonWatch.com, and Taxpayers Against Earmarks — counted total earmark requests in the 2011 budget. Those requests were made by lawmakers earlier this year, but Democratic leaders, afraid that their party’s spending priorities might cost them at the polls, decided not to pass a budget before the Nov. 2 elections. This week, they distilled those earmark requests — threw some out, combined others — into the omnibus bill that was under consideration in the Senate until Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled it Thursday night. While that bill was loaded with spending, looking back at the original earmark requests tells us a lot about the spending inclinations of both parties.
In the 2011 House budget, the groups found that House Democrats requested 18,189 earmarks, which would cost the taxpayers a total of $51.7 billion, while House Republicans requested just 241 earmarks, for a total of $1 billion.
Where did those GOP earmark requests come from? Just four Republican lawmakers: South Carolina Rep. Henry Brown, who did not run for re-election this year; Louisiana Rep. Joseph Cao, who lost his bid for re-election; maverick Texas Rep. Ron Paul; and spending king Rep. Don Young of Alaska. The other Republican members of the House — 174 of them — requested a total of zero earmarks.
The Senate GOP didn’t do as well, but still managed to dial it down, at least a bit. Democrats requested over 15,000 earmarks for a total of almost $55 billion, while the Republicans in the upper chamber made over 5300 earmarks that totaled $22 billion. That still suggests that Senate Republicans need a big dose of Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint, which they’ll get with Marco Rubio’s arrival.
Granted, Republicans didn’t hold power in this budget cycle — or, they haven’t held power yet in this budget cycle. With the failure of OmniPorkulus, the GOP will take charge of the rest of the budget year as soon as they take office. Putting Hal Rogers in charge of Appropriations doesn’t send a comforting signal, but for the first time the committee will have porkbusting crusader Jeff Flake on board, who will make porkers famous, in John McCain’s old phrase. Without pork greasing the wheels, Congress will have to vote on spending bills for their overall value, not for the self-serving home-district projects they can buy, and that means more pressure to reduce spending and cut programs.
Both parties still need to improve, but at least one party shows that they’re willing to try. As long as the Tea Party activists keep pressure on them, we’ll continue to see improvement, or we’ll continue to see new faces on Capitol Hill.