Harry Reid tells ABC News that Barack Obama’s vow to veto any bill with earmarks was “only for show,” which is more or less the consensus anyway. After all, Obama never followed through on his earlier threats to veto pork-laden bills, did he? Reid said that Obama most assuredly will get the opportunity if he desires to whip out his veto pen, saying about earmarks, “Of course they’ll be back”:
In an interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl, Reid launched a vigorous defense of pork, the pet projects that members of Congress insert into bills to benefit their home states.
“I think it’s taking power away from the legislative branch of government and giving it to the executive branch of government,” Reid said of the president’s plan. “The executive branch of government is powerful enough and I think that I know more about what Nevada needs than some bureaucrat down on K Street.”
“So you think the president is wrong about this?” Karl asked.
“Without any question,” Reid replied. “I understand it’s great for an applause line, but it’s really not solving anything to do with the deficit. It’s only for show.”
“So you’re saying that earmarks will be back?” said Karl.
“Of course they’ll be back,” said Reid.
Reid likes to call earmarks “Congressionally directed spending,” but that’s sophistry. If Congress wants to build a bike path in Minnesota, then let someone introduce a bill for a floor vote specific to that intent. If it passes both chambers and the President signs the bill, then no one can complain that it didn’t get thoroughly vetted. The problem with earmarks is that these projects don’t get separate and discrete votes on the merits, but instead get buried in massive appropriations bills for a single up-or-down vote on the whole package.
Not only do earmarks have that problem, but elected officials get so many that no one is inclined to challenge the level of overall spending in the bills in which they have been embedded. It sets up a bribery cycle for which taxpayers end up footing the bill. It’s the grease that allows the wheels of out-of-control spending to turn.
Reid does correctly diagnose Obama’s position on earmarks, though. It’s nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt. At least Reid manages to be more honest about that than the White House, and most (but not all) of the media.