Thursday, February 02, 2012
McCaskill: Earmark ban must be permanent
(In her latest newsletter. Sen. Claire McCaskill says the ban on earmarks must be made permanent.)
We always knew the culture of earmarks wouldn’t go away without a fight. When I arrived in the Senate, I took one look at the earmarking process—where members of Congress were doling out taxpayer dollars for their own pet projects, without transparency or competition—and decided I wouldn’t have any part of it.
At the time, it was a lonely stand to take. It felt like the rest of my party was patting me on the head, telling me that earmarks—which had resulted in jail time for the worst abusers—were here to stay.
It took four years, but with momentum from an energized and outraged public demanding less spending and a better working government, I finally got my colleagues in Washington to do something about earmarking. Last year, members of both parties in both houses of Congress agreed to a voluntary, two-year ban on earmarks.
Unfortunately, the temporary ban we won is about to expire. Already, many of my colleagues are clamoring to reinstitute earmarking and some have attempted to circumvent the existing ban, as it is. My office exposed an effort by the House Armed Services Committee to add hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks to a defense bill. We stopped that House committee, and now I want to end the culture of earmarking once and for all.
My partner in this fight is Republican Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, who has joined me in calling for a permanent end to earmarking since shortly after he won election to represent the people of Pennsylvania in the Senate in 2010. Our plan would: •Permanently ban all earmarks
•Define earmarks as any congressionally directed spending item, limited tax benefit, or limited tariff benefit
•Create a mechanism to stop any piece of legislation that is found to contain an earmark
Unfortunately, the Senate today missed an opportunity and refused to pass our commonsense plan. But I’ve talked to families and businesses in every corner of Missouri—and by and large, the folks I hear from don’t want Congress to go back to its old habits of spending taxpayer dollars with no accountability. I’m going to work with Senator Toomey to continue this fight and to see this bill signed into law.
We now know that a temporary ban isn’t enough. Our permanent ban is the only way to end Washington’s earmark culture that existed for so long and is now threatening to come back.