Do Democrats Have a Plan on Earmarks?
Over the last few days, we've learned quite a bit about what House Democrats don't like:
â€¢ They don't like President Bush's vow during last night's State of the Union address to veto any appropriations bills that don't cut earmarks in half.
â€¢ They don't like Bush's plan to issue an executive order telling agencies to ignore earmarks that aren't written into the legislative text of spending bills.
â€¢ They don't like the House GOP's call, made Friday night during the Republican retreat, for both sides to agree to a temporary earmark moratorium.
â€¢ They don't like -- or at least haven't shown any enthusiasm for -- Republicans' proposal for a bipartisan select committee to recommend changes to the earmarking process.
So what DO House Democrats like? Do they have a plan of their own?
Faced with this question today, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, "We are discussing next steps. Mr. Obey is discussing next steps with the leadership and with his committee. I will not prematurely anticipate those discussions."
Hoyer was referring to House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.). But Obey didn't really seem inclined to discuss the topic when he was asked.
"As I said yesterday, this is a president who has signed bills with more earmarks than any president in history," Obey said, adding that Bush's "vision is a one-percent solution."
So what about those "discussions" he's holding?
"That's all I have to say on the subject," Obey responded.
To sum up, it doesn't appear that there are active plans right now to come up with a new, Democratic plan to further reform the earmark process. There is still plenty of time left in the year for the party to do so, however, and the subject could come up at the House Democratic retreat, which begins tomorrow in Williamsburg, Va.
As things stand now, Democrats' primary message on earmarks is that they deserve credit for having reduced earmarks significantly since taking control a year ago, and that they have implemented new transparency rules.
They could decide to simply stand on that mantra -- and run on it in November -- or they could conclude that the GOP's attacks on them are gaining traction and move to craft a new plan. But today, nine months out from Election Day, Democrats don't seem particularly nervous about this topic.
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