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Letter


NTU Supports HR 1642, the Obligation of Funds Transparency Act

April 27, 2005

The Honorable Jeff Flake
United States House of Representatives
424 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Flake:

On behalf of the 350,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I write to offer our strong endorsement of H.R. 1642, the Obligation of Funds Transparency Act. As you know, earmarks are one major problem with the Congressional budget process. In a practice that has become more and more prevalent, earmarked funding is being tucked away in conference or committee report language for inherently political or wasteful purposes that do little good for the American people. The problem of abusive earmarking has worsened in recent years. In fact, Congress provided for a record 13,997 pork-barrel projects costing $27.3 billion in fiscal 2005. With the deficit expected to reach $427 billion this year and federal spending growing at a rapid clip, Congress has no excuse for looking the other way as earmarking continues.

Your legislation, although it by no means prohibits the practice of earmarking, would help to expose some of the most egregiously wasteful and sneaky earmarks. In order to avoid scrutiny, the sponsors of these earmarks often include them in the Congressional report accompanying the appropriation act rather than the legislation itself. The Obligation of Funds Transparency Act would simply require that all earmarks are included in the appropriation act and are thus at least made public before the bill's final passage.

Currently, Members of the House cannot amend committee report language; they can only amend the actual text of a bill. Because most earmarks are found in committee or conference reports, it is nearly impossible for Members to introduce amendments that would remove such spending measures and force a debate as to why a specific project is important. In order to address this problem, your legislation would allow Members to amend the actual legislative language of the bill to strip out these earmarks. In addition, your bill contains "point of order" protection that prevents House rules from being waived with regard to attaching non-germane items in the conference report of a spending bill. This will shed light on earmarks attached to conference reports that only the conferees have seen.

In the midst of the ongoing war on terror, the very least Congress should do is to allow greater debate on the merits of pork-barrel spending. It makes simple common sense to ask Members of Congress who want special spending projects in their districts to explain to taxpayers why their project should be funded. Every Member of Congress should support this common sense legislation.

Sincerely,

Paul J. Gessing
Director of Government Affairs