In January, we reported on the efforts of Senate Democrats to water down the anti-earmark legislation passed by the House under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi. At that time, Majority Leader Reid and Majority Whip Durbin rejected Pelosi’s approach and pushed for legislation that defined earmarks much more narrowly, thus undermining real reform. However when Senator DeMint and other Republicans blew the whistle on Reid and Durbin, a few Democratic Senators (including Barack Obama) forced the leadership to back down and accept serious reform.
I warned, however, that “the Senate Dems intend to continue with business as usual once the first ‘100 hours’ expire and the caravan moves on.”
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what has happened. The Senate Dems have refused to implement the tough earmark legislation the Senate passed unanimously in January. In other words, when the spotlights were on the Senate Dems felt constrained to support tough earmark reform; now that they the spotlights are off they apparently are dragging their feet.
After the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, they gradually lost their “religion” when it came to reform. It’s pretty clear that the Senate Democrats who took control in 2006 never had any desire for meaningful reform, and they may have already lost the will even to pretend that they have such religion.
UPDATE: Sen. DeMint, joined by Senators Chambliss, Coburn, Cornyn, and Enzi, has written a letter to the Senate leadership announcing his intention to seek unanimous consent on April 17 to enact S.Res.123, the Senate earmark disclosure rule. As Mark Tapscott has reported, DeMint previously did so on March 29, before the Easter recess, but was rebuffed by the Dems, with the ethically-challenged Sen. Menendez voicing the objection.
The legislation is bottled up in a House-Senate conference. DeMint proposes that the Senate simply go ahead and unilaterally apply the earmark disclosure rule to its own work. He points to recent developments that call into question the commitment to “shine light on the congressional favor factory.” For example, the Fiscal year 2008 earmark solicitation form circulated by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development did not require the disclosure of the name or address of the intended earmark recipient, and did not require certification that the requesting Senator has no financial interest in the earmark. The earmark solicitation forms circulated by the Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior and Agriculture were similarly defective.
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