- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007

Some Democratic leaders are scoffing at the Bush administration’s call to limit pork-barrel spending to $9.5 billion next year, accusing the White House of not doing its part to cut back on special-interest projects.

The Democratic leadership in the House and Senate appropriations committees “certainly will take note the recommendations made by the OMB,” said Jenny Thalheimer, spokeswoman for the Democratic majority in the Senate Appropriations Committee and for the panel chairman, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat.

“However,” she added, “the power of the purse lies with Congress, and it is Congress’ responsibility to determine the amount of earmarks, including in appropriations legislation.”

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said the president’s attempt to force Congress to cut pork-barrel spending rings hollow because Mr. Bush hasn’t committed to scale back his favorite projects.

“Did the OMB include administration earmarks [in its $9.5 billion goal]? No,” said Reid spokesman Jim Manley. “So I’m not quite sure [the OMB’s report] is worth the piece of paper it’s written on.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said House Democrats are committed to earmark reform and will work to cut pork-barrel spending in half for fiscal 2008, spokesman Drew Hammill said.

But like her party’s Senate leadership, Mrs. Pelosi urges the president to take the lead in cutting pork from his budget as well.

“We will be happy to engage in a conversation with the White House about limiting all earmarks, including executive branch earmarks,” Mr. Hammill said. “We hope the White House will join us in our effort to root out waste, fraud and abuse in contracting.”

In January, President Bush called on Congress to cut earmarks, commonly called pork-barrel projects, from appropriations by at least 50 percent for fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1. At the time the administration set no starting point for calculating the nonbinding cuts. But on Wednesday the White House Office of Management and Budget set $19 billion as the benchmark, meaning that Congress would have to cut $9.5 billion in earmarks to meet the president’s goal.

The amount of earmarks has nearly tripled in the past decade, OMB said.

House Minority Leader Rep. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, questioned Democrats’ sincerity in cutting pork because the supplemental military spending bill that narrowly passed the Democratic-led House last month was filled with an estimated $20 billion in pork projects.

“As a member [of Congress] who doesn’t do earmarks, I know [the president’s goal] is achievable,” Mr. Boehner said. “But if you use the [Iraq war] supplemental appropriations bill Democrats just passed as a guidepost for pork-barrel spending to come, I don’t think there is cause for optimism.”

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