During a presidential debate last fall, Barack Obama made an emphatic pledge on earmark reform: “When I’m president, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely.” Now, the Obama administration is urging Congress to quickly pass a $410 billion budget that contains 9,000 earmarks in order to keep the government running for the rest of fiscal 2009. Yesterday on the Senate floor, John McCain (R-AZ) — who frequently railed against earmarkers on the campaign trail and pledged to “make them famous” — fumed over the Obama administration’s stance:
“If it seems like I’m angry, it’s because I am,” McCain said, taking the White House to task for treating the bill as leftover business — and not subject to the full measure of earmark reform promised by candidate Obama.
“Last year’s business?” McCain asked, incredulous. “The president will sign this appropriations bill into law. It is the president’s business. It is the president of the United States’ business. It is the president of the United States’ business to do what he said — stated — when we were in debate seeking the support of the American people — where he said he would work to eliminate earmarks.”
McCain, who did not request any earmarks himself, said, “I want to freely acknowledge that Republicans were guilty of this as well.” Indeed, Republican leader Mitch McConell “has more than $75 million worth of earmarks in the omnibus spending bill.” Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Joe Biden, and Ken Salazar also have earmarks in the bill. As ThinkProgress has previously noted, some earmarks serve very vital purposes.
The White House said it will reform the process “going forward.” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “The rules of the road going forward for those many appropriations bills that will go through Congress and come to his desk will be done differently.”