(Alexandria, VA) -- Congress has already left town after passing a half-trillion-dollar omnibus appropriations bill, but President Bush can still spare taxpayers from many pork-barrel projects in the legislation, according to the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU). Even though Bush is signing the bill, NTU today gave a thumbs-up to the President's suggestion that he may order federal agencies to ignore some of the 9,000-plus "earmarks" that Congress concocted during the process of enacting the legislation.
"Members of Congress may be headed home for the holidays, but that doesn't mean they should be allowed to play Santa Claus with taxpayer dollars," NTU Government Affairs Manager Andrew Moylan noted. "As was demonstrated earlier this year, the Chief Executive has the power to block spending on Congressional earmarks that are not specified in statutory law. He should exercise that authority now to the maximum extent possible."
Despite having less than 48 hours to consider it, the House and Senate passed an omnibus appropriations package that combined discretionary funding for every agency into one giant bill, with the exception of the Department of Defense. Though the legislation has already passed, policy experts continue to uncover the details of more than 9,000 earmarks buried in over 3,500 pages of legislation worth nearly $500 billion.
"Congress's procrastination led to a reprehensible free-for-all," said Moylan, who noted that over 300 of the 9,000-plus earmarks in the final omnibus package had never been previously considered by either chamber. Some of the earmark lowlights include a $1.95 million project honoring Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) to help build the "Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service" at City College of New York. The bill also includes $213,000 for olive fruit fly research in France, and $200,000 for a hunting and fishing museum in Pennsylvania.
Earlier this year, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memorandum directing federal agencies to refrain from obligating Fiscal Year 2007 funds to earmarked projects that were authorized in Congressional reports (a common practice) as opposed to the actual text of the law. Although some of the earmarks in the just-passed FY 2008 omnibus bill seem to be embedded in statutory language, many others could be ripe for cancellation through executive order.
"Instead of an omnibus, Congress should have simply passed a long-term continuing resolution to fund the federal government at Fiscal Year 2007 levels without earmarks," Moylan concluded. "Since that didn't happen, President Bush would earn a big round of applause from taxpayers for at least trying to limit the damage of Congress's reckless earmarking."
NTU is a nonprofit citizen organization founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes and smaller government at all levels. Note: For more information on NTU's earmark reform efforts, visit www.ntu.org.