- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Republican strategists say freshmen House Democrats are vulnerable to charges they broke 2006 campaign promises to fight pork-barrel spending as a result of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to disregard Republican calls for more earmark reforms.

Democrats facing criticism include Rep. Nancy Boyda of Kansas, whose 2006 upset victory over incumbent Republican Jim Ryun was in part due to her pledge to end abuse of earmarks, the process by which members slip pet projects into spending bills.

“Voters simply cannot trust Boyda to keep her promise to reform the earmark process,” said Kyle Robertson, campaign manager for Mr. Ryun, who is seeking a rematch. “Boyda know she has to rely on Speaker Pelosi funneling money her way so Democrats can keep the seat.”

The criticism of Mrs. Boyda, who declined to respond, reflects a national Republican strategy to reclaim the party’s reputation for fiscal responsibility and turn the pork-spending issue against Democrats.

Democratic targets include freshman Reps. Bruce Braley of Iowa, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Nick Lampson of Texas, Tim Mahoney of Florida and Zack Space of Ohio, according to Republican Party officials.

All serve in Republican-leaning districts and campaigned strongly against wasteful pork spending in 2006.

The strategy took shape last week when Mrs. Pelosi, of California, ended the caucus’ annual retreat without addressing the earmark issue, snubbing House Republicans who proposed a bipartisan committee to write reform measures and a moratorium on earmarks.

“House Republicans will use every means available to force votes on this issue until the earmark process is brought to an immediate halt,” House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, of Ohio, said yesterday. “American families are fed up with seeing their hard-earned tax dollars squandered by Washington politicians, particularly at a time when the middle class is being squeezed by the rising cost of living.”

Mrs. Pelosi said she is open to ideas to improve the earmark system. But she stood by the reforms adopted last year by the Democrat-led Congress, requiring members to attach their names to their earmarks and reducing the amount of earmarks to $13 billion, half the amount in 2006 and the lowest level since 2000.

“The Republicans are the last people who should be lecturing on earmark reform,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Doug Thornell. “They have absolutely no credibility on this issue.”

He noted that under Republican rule, pork-spending jumped from $12 billion in 1999 to $29 billion in 2006.

But a national Republican official said the Democrats’ silence on earmark reform this year signaled a shift away from campaign promises that helped them win the majority.

“They talked a big game in 2006, but now Democrats have become quite adept at playing the Washington parlor game of backroom dealing,” the official said. “This will catch up with them on the campaign trail.”

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