- The Washington Times - Monday, March 9, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama, who repeatedly criticized earmarks while campaigning last year, is supposedly not happy with the 9,000 projects individual legislators tacked onto the $410 billion spending bill, but his boss will sign the bill anyway, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel says.

It’s hard to believe Mr. Obama is really unhappy with earmarks, which date back to last year when the bill was starting its trek through Congress. It turns out he and top members of his administration are the perpetrators of a number of them in the bill, according to CQPolitics.com., the Web site of the respected Congressional Quarterly.

For example, to cite a trifecta, Mr. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were listed as co-sponsors of a $7.7 million earmark for “Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Vocational Institutions” while the three were senators last year, CQ reports. That’s just a part of the $109 million in earmarks that Mrs. Clinton sponsored or co-sponsored in the bill, slightly above the $94.9 million that Mr. Biden sought. Mr. Emanuel, while in Congress last year, sponsored $3.9 million individually in the bill. But earmarks are bipartisan - current Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican, put in $31.2 million in earmarks while in Congress last year. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was linked to $227.4 million in earmarks and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to $38.4 million; in both cases mainly as co-sponsors.

Mr. Obama may be right that “we can no longer accept a process that doles out earmarks based on a member of Congress’ seniority, rather than the merit of the project.” He would have a bit more moral standing if he sent back the spending bill rather than dismiss the pork, as his chief of staff did, as “last year’s business.” Mr. Obama and his team have instrumental in conceiving last year’s business, which gives birth in this year’s budget.

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