(Washington, DC) -- As the Congressional session grows shorter, lawmakers must stand taller for legislation to expose the special-interest "earmarks" that are littered throughout the federal budget, according to the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU). Today NTU's President joined with other Washington, DC heavy-hitters at a Capitol Hill welcoming-event for the "Ending Earmarks Express" bus tour.
"The final stop for the Ending Earmarks Express is not the end of the journey for the cause it carries," said NTU President John Berthoud. "Are Members of Congress, who've been politically hard of hearing these past months, now listening to the taxpayers' call for Washington to mend its wasteful ways? Hopefully we'll get an answer in the days ahead."
Congress's ever-worsening tendency to load legislation with thousands of earmarks -- embedded most egregiously in the 2005 Highway Bill -- is one of many reasons why NTU's annual Rating of Congress has failed to show improvement for years. In 2005 the average House Member's Rating, based on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy, was just 40 percent, while the Senate's mean was 44 percent. This marks the eighth straight year the averages on the Rating have languished below 50 percent.
Berthoud noted that NTU members have enthusiastically turned out for every appearance of the Ending Earmarks Express across the U.S., and have lent vital grassroots energy to a movement poised to take the first steps toward restoring accountability to the federal spending process. Since last year NTU has launched e-mail alerts, talk radio campaigns, coalition efforts, and patient behind-the-scenes lobbying on behalf of earmark reform legislation such as H.R. 4964, the "Earmark Transparency and Accountability Act" sponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The proposal soon to come before the House embodies several principles of Flake's bill, including more comprehensive disclosure of earmarks and procedural safeguards against tactics to hide them.
"At last the House is poised to make the long crawl back to fiscal responsibility, starting with its own earmarking habits," Berthoud concluded. "With this excellent step, lawmakers in both chambers of Congress can confidently move forward with other reforms such as grant and contract disclosure, less reliance on emergency spending schemes, and enforceable limits on federal budget growth. Taxpayers will be cheering them on all the way."
NTU is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working for lower taxes and smaller government. Note: More information on budget process reforms is available at www.ntu.org.