Congress is under significant political pressure to reduce earmarks in appropriations legislation. Profligate spending and excessive earmaking cost Republicans in the 2006 election. Reforms have been promised, but there's been very little follow through. Indeed, the new Congressional appropriators are conspiring to keep earmarks in but hide them from the public. For years, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) tallied earmarks in pending legislation, but no more, as John Fund reports.
Democrats promised reform and instituted "a moratorium" on all earmarks until the system was cleaned up. Now the appropriations committees are privately accepting pork-barrel requests again. But curiously, the scorekeeper on earmarks, the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (CRS)--a publicly funded, nonpartisan federal agency--has suddenly announced it will no longer respond to requests from members of Congress on the size, number or background of earmarks. . . .
Indeed, the shift in CRS policy represents a dramatic break with its 12-year practice of supplying members with earmark data. "CRS will no longer identify earmarks for individual programs, activities, entities, or individuals," stated a private Feb. 22 directive from CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan.
The reason? The appropriations committees are going to identify the earmarks themselves. Of course, as Fund reports, their definition of earmarks is a little bit more flexible. For instance, when challenged about one item in a recent appropriations bill, House committee Chair David Obey explained to a colleague: "The fact is, that an earmark is something that is requested by an individual member. This item was not requested by any individual member. It was put in the bill by me!" We should expect to see many more of Rep. Obey's projects lining appropriations bills in the future. Let the pork-barrel spending resume! [Link via Instapundit)