The President weighed in over the weekend on the controversy over earmarks, using his weekly address to tell Americans that earmarks are “a bad Washington habit,” and that reforming them will “take a step towards restoring public trust.” Will Barack Obama find the courage to confront his own party’s lame-duck session to stop it from porking up an omnibus spending bill that they have to pass to avoid allowing John Boehner to dictate spending habits for the remainder of FY2011? Not exactly:
White House senior advisor David Axelrod made it clear on Sunday that President Obama has made no commitment to vetoing spending bills that contain earmarks despite calls from fiscal hawks for the president to make that pledge.
Axelrod suggested it may be too late in the year for the president to refuse his signature on bills that contain pork.
“Obviously, this is very late in the game in terms of budgeting and keeping the functions of government operating,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “One of the problems is that these things come embedded in bills that have to be signed.”
It doesn’t take a genius to understand this signal. Obama is afraid of what will happen if the Republicans get their hands on this year’s budget, especially with ObamaCare and the EPA’s intent to regulate carbon dioxide on their own. The lame-duck session has barely enough time to get the rest of the budget through both chambers of Congress and a conference committee as it is. A veto would almost certainly run out the clock on the Democratic majority in the House, and that means Republicans would get to write the budget now rather than starting in October of next year. David Axelrod’s semaphore to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid couldn’t be clearer if he had hired a skywriter to paint “PORK IS THE NEW HOPENCHANGE” across a Potomac sunrise.
This, of course, is a brilliant demonstration of just how badly pork corrodes the budgeting process. In order to get a quick deal to ensure passage of a budget on their terms, Democratic leadership has to offer boatloads of pork to buy votes in the House and particularly the Senate. The President needs to sign off on pork to make sure he gets all the money he wants to work around Congress on these issues. It’s poison, injected into the body politic one line item at a time.
Talk is cheap, Mr. President. Obama cannot pose as a spending reformer while the White House puts the pig on the barbecue and invites everyone to dig in while it’s hot.