In a column yesterday in Roll Call, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, California Republican, said giving up earmarks would end the congressional power of the purse.
He has proposed putting a cap on the number of earmarks allowed per member, and requiring that the requester submit a letter that would be printed in the Congressional Record.
But earmark opponents like Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, said capping the total number of earmarks would just mean lawmakers ask for bigger-ticket items.
The Congressional Research Service said earmarks have grown from 4,126 in 1994, the year before Republicans gained control of Congress, to 15,268 in 2005.
Some lawmakers say earmarks are a red herring in the fight to cut the deficit, but Mr. Coburn argues it’s a mind-set and if Congress takes care of the small items, it will also take care of the big items.
Mr. Coburn had a mixed record with the spending floor votes he did force last year.
He was unable to cut funding for the Defense Travel System and he lost, 82-15, a vote to strike money for the so-called “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska. But the public fight over the bridge led Republican leaders to drop the earmark a few weeks later.