Last month, when House Republican leaders unveiled their much-anticipated “Pledge to America,” conservative activists were nearly universally disappointed by the “milquetoast” agenda, especially for its failure to include a ban on earmarks. “There is definitely someone playing out of tune by not talking about earmarks,” said David Keating, the executive director of the far-right anti-tax group Club for Growth.
Republicans countered by noting that they have already implemented a temporary moratorium on earmarks, and say they plan to extend it after it expires. “Republicans, we’re going to continue this earmark ban. We’ve already done the earmark ban. That’s why it’s not in the pledge,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) told Good Morning America late last month.
But Roll Call reports today that House GOP leaders may not be as committed to earmark transparency as they are letting on. A House GOP website set up early this year to provide a searchable database of federal earmark requests “has disappeared.” Sunshine.gop.gov now links only to a March press release which trumpets the House GOP’s supposed commitment to transparency:
Republican aides who were asked Wednesday afternoon about the website’s disappearance were puzzled about what had become of it, and none could explain why it went dark.
A spokeswoman for the Sunlight Foundation said the site had been “laying low” for a while, seemingly replaced by other GOP initiatives, and had not functioned off the Hill for “some time.” [...]
A spokesperson for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who spearheaded the project, was “not available for comment.” McMorris Rodgers touted the website as a major innovation when she announced it in January, saying, “As Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference, one of my top priorities is to increase transparency and accountability in government. That’s why I launched a website which enables citizens to track earmark requests by every member of Congress.”
House Republicans’ voluntary one-year moratorium on earmarks will expire in March, conveniently just months after they expect to retake the lower chamber. “Washington Republicans have already broken several of their ‘Pledges,’ indicated they are going to abandon their earmark moratorium next year, and are now scrapping this website,” said a spokesman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
In a recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute, House Minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) offered strong rhetoric on earmarks — “I believe it is our obligation to end earmarking as we know it” — but “did not offer any specifics as to how the GOP would reform the process of earmarking.” Nor did he actually promise to end earmarks if his party retakes the House, merely saying that “the future of the moratorium will be a collective decision, made by our members,” offering himself a helpful excuse should Republicans choose not extend the moratorium.