Catching on to the earmark bus

As I alluded to over the weekend, I received a missive from Congressman Wayne Gilchrest’s campaign informing me that he’s for doing away with some of the pork too:

As more stories emerge linking egregious spending in Washington in the form of earmarks with campaign contributions for members of Congress, the need for full disclosure of earmark requests is needed now more than ever, U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R-Maryland-1st) said. Gilchrest signed a discharge petition last week that would force a vote to allow all earmarks to be challenged and debated on the House floor, regardless of what type of bill they are included in.

“Earmarks have been around for a long time and in some cases they make sense,” Gilchrest said. “We’ve requested earmarks for highway safety projects that otherwise might not have received the same level of funding in our state because of other high profile projects previous Governors have deemed priorities. But it’s clear that secretive earmarks slipped into bills in the middle of the night is not good government. If legislators believe that their earmarks are worth funding, they should be able to get up and explain them to their colleagues. We’ve got to begin to restore the faith of the American people that this system we have established is working, and that it’s transparent to prevent even the hint of impropriety.

“It’s why I have also always supported a line-item veto to give the President the power to strike some of this egregious spending in many of these bills. As it stands now, the President has to veto the entire bill and we’re heading down the path of a fiscal showdown that won’t benefit the American people.

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The discharge petition currently has 196 signatures, and needs the signatures of 218 members of Congress for it to go forward.

Obviously the question I and most of my regular readers have is: what took so long? To be honest, the timing is suspicious as it came a week after the issue was brought up by opponent Andy Harris. The discharge petition in question still has 196 signers, as Gilchrest became signer #183 on September 26. Oddly enough, Gilchrest signed right after Presidental candidate Duncan Hunter; fellow Oval Office aspirants Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul signed it September 20. Needless to say, Democrat Presidential candidate and House member Dennis Kucinich has yet to sign.

Whether this discharge petition has any sort of hope or not will obviously hinge on the majority Democrats, since the GOP only has 201 members with both currently vacant seats formerly held by Republicans who died in office.

On a broader, more philosophical note, much of the earmark reform needs to come from a change in attitude among the voting public. Too often they grade their Congressman on how much bacon they bring back to the home district. It’s the same philosophy where John Q. Public wants all the bums thrown out of Congress – except their own representative. Voters want as much pork brought back to their district as their person in DC can scratch out, forgetting that in order to get it he or she has to allow the other 434 members of the House their respective chunks of the meat too. There’s very few altruists in our nation’s capital.

So while this discharge petition is a start, it does nothing to promote and educate the voters about what should be the proper role of the federal government, and that role certainly isn’t that of paying for the “Bridge to Nowhere” to be built.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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