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An Open Letter to the President: Oppose Omnibus Earmarks
December 21, 0007
The Honorable George W. Bush
Dear Mr. President:
This past week, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that will soon be presented for your signature. While it is consistent with the total budget targets your administration has set, the 3,417 pages of the bill and associated reports are bloated by more than 9,000 earmarks, which were subjected to little or no review during the scant 24 hours between the publishing of the bill text and the House voting to pass it. When combined with the more than 2,000 earmarks in the Defense Appropriations Bill, this Congress has churned out over 11,000 earmarks this year. The vast majority of these earmarks do not even appear in the legislative text, but rather are buried in the committee reports that accompany the bill, further removing them from proper review and scrutiny. While the total number of earmarks is down compared to record highs and there is increased transparency, there are still far too many to be effectively vetted.
The rushed way in which Congress passed the omnibus - one of the largest pieces of legislation ever considered - made a mockery of our legislative process, and Congress itself bears the responsibility and shame for that. But you have the power to send a message both to Congress and the American people that the waste and corrupting influence of earmarks will not be tolerated. A December 18 legal analysis by the Congressional Research Service concluded that "because the language of committee reports do not meet the procedural requirements of Article I of the Constitution - specifically, bicameralism and presentment - they are not laws and, therefore, are not legally binding on executive agencies.... Given both the implied legal and constitutional authority as well as the long-standing accepted process of Presidents, it appears that a President can, if he so chooses, issue an executive order with respect to earmarks contained solely in committee reports and not in any way incorporated into the legislative text."
On December 20, you stated that you "were instructing the budget director to review options for dealing with the wasteful spending in the omnibus bill." We applaud you for this leadership, and ask that you follow through by issuing an executive order formally directing all Federal agencies to ignore non-legislative earmarks tucked into committee reports and statements of managers. Such an action is within your constitutional powers, and would strike a blow for fiscal responsibility now while setting a valuable precedent for the future.
Tell Congress and the American public that the era of earmarks is over, and that the Congressional "favor factory" which mints earmarks is closed. The American taxpayer will applaud such an action, as will the many honest legislators in Congress who are trying to fight the broken and corrupt appropriations machine. We hope that you embrace this opportunity, and thank you for your leadership on this issue.
American Conservative Union