On Monday, President Bush explained his veto of the recent Labor-HHS bill, claiming the “majority” in Congress had abandoned his “clear goals for the Congress to reform the earmarking process” and was “acting like a teenager with a new credit card.”
In reality, Bush “stuffs his budget with billions for pet projects.” According to Senate Democrats, Bush placed 580 earmarks worth $15.6 billion in a recent military and veterans appropriations request, along with “billions” in the energy and water spending bill:
Some presidential earmarks have obvious roots, such as $24 million for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. The president earmarked a billion dollars for the Reading First program, which was criticized by government auditors for steering contracts to favored companies. He also sought $8.9 million for the Points of Light foundation, a pet project started by his father, former President George H.W. Bush.
Congress slashed $676 million from Bush’s request for Reading First and eliminated the Points of Light funding. Bush retaliated by vetoing the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill.
The Democratic-led Congress has made major advances in earmark reform in contrast to the profligate spenders of recent conservative-led Congresses. An analysis by Citizens Against Government Waste estimates that earmarks in FY08 appropriations bills are “down about 33 percent from the $29 billion in earmarks in FY06 spending bills”:
The report showed a significant reduction in one of the largest magnets for earmarks, the Defense appropriations bill. The FY08 measure, by the group’s reckoning, included 2,074 projects worth $6.6 billion. This compared to 2,822 projects worth $14.9 billion in the FY06 bill.
The group also said Democrats have made strides against earmarks in the Labor-HHS spending bill, which Bush vetoed Tuesday.
Last week, Bush also hypocritically lambasted “the majority” in Congress, ignoring the fact that the largest earmarks in the legislation that he vetoed were from Republican Sens. Mitch McConnnell (KY) and Richard Shelby (AL).
“Republicans’ newfound fascination with spending stems from a simple reality: They suffered badly over the issue in 2006,” notes the Wall Street Journal. Ironically, President Bush should be the target in his “war over earmarks.“