Friday, June 27, 2008

Earmarks Persist in Spending Bills for 2009

From the NY Times:

Despite a pledge by Congressional leaders to reduce pork-barrel projects, new information shows that both the number and amount of earmarks have increased in several spending bills now making their way through Congress.

The amount of the earmarks in the House version of the labor, health and human services appropriations bill for the 2009 fiscal year, for example, has jumped to $618.8 million from $277.9 million compared with the bill in 2008, according to Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington.

In the Interior Department spending bill, earmarks increased to $134.9 million from $111 million from last year. Those amounts might change when the Appropriations Committee approves those bills. A spokeswoman from the committee said the number and amount of earmarks would be kept at 2008 levels.

A few years ago, the Department of Homeland Security bill had no earmarks; the new House bill has more than 100. In all, lawmakers requested 3,796 earmarks worth about $2.7 billion in seven spending bills.

The debate over earmarks has heated up in recent years after they figured into several Congressional scandals.

President Bush has threatened to veto spending bills if the number and cost of earmarks were not cut in half. Mr. Bush said that earmarks were wasteful and that the projects they financed typically lacked transparency and oversight.

The number of earmarks did decline last year after lawmakers, under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, mandated that members publicly disclose their financing requests.

“But these increases we are seeing clearly sets back any steps toward reform,” said Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste. “We’re back to where we were before.”

Supporters of the practice say Congress has the right to appropriate financing to organizations and programs that agencies might otherwise overlook. But Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona and a longtime critic of earmarks, said the budget process had become a spoils system.

“It’s become a way for lawmakers to award the lobbyists and others who give to their campaigns,” Mr. Flake said.

House Democrats lead the way in earmark requests worth billions of dollars in the seven bills for which information is available, according to a review of the data by The New York Times.

Transcript: Karl Rove Calls Obama "Arrogant" on O'Reilly Factor

Rove made comment on FOXnews' "O'Reilly Factor." Read the entire transcript.

All right. Newsweek, as we've discussed here, has become a far-left publication. But they did hire you as a columnist, one of two conservatives, as opposed to nine liberal columnists. That sounds fair and balanced to me. But you don't believe this poll, do you, that Obama is up 15 on McCain?

KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH ADVISER: No, I don't. That's what we call an outlier or an outwriter. If you look at it, the other polls show anything from 1 to 6 or 7 points. My suspicion is he's up 3 or 4 or 5 points today.

O'REILLY: OK, why would Newsweek put out a bogus poll?

ROVE: Well, look, Newsweek's poll, and I say this with great respect for Newsweek, having been hired as a columnist for this year and next, but that poll has habitually been the outlier. That is to say in previous elections, it's been the poll that has been — tended to be more generous to Democrats and less generous to Republicans.

O'REILLY: Do you feel uneasy about writing for that publication now that it is a committed far-left publication? As I said...

ROVE: Well...

O'REILLY: ...two conservatives, you and George Will? Nine, at least, liberals.

ROVE: Well, I like having an opportunity to voice an opinion and give some analysis. And I know I'm among people who don't necessarily think like I do, and I welcome the opportunity to try and educate them straight.

O'REILLY: Very diplomatic, Mr. Rove. ABC News has a report on its Web site that you were at a country club and said Obama is an arrogant guy. Is that true?

ROVE: Well, I wasn't at a country club. I was at the National Republican — the Capitol Hill Club, which is a Republican club on Capitol Hill. Look, I'm not going to get into what I said in an off the record event. But I will say, yes, I do think Barack Obama is arrogant. And I think we saw examples of that last week, at least three or four examples of it.

We saw it when he, you know, earlier on, he made a big thing about he wanted to strengthen the public financing system. He said absolutely he would take taxpayer dollars in the general election if the Republican agreed to take taxpayer dollars and abide by the $85 million limit — spending limit.

And then, you know, that was when he didn't think he could raise money. Now that he knows that he can raise money, he's decided the rules shouldn't apply, and he reversed course on Thursday and said...

Transcript: McCain Las Vegas Speech on Energy

Read the complete transcript:

Political campaigns have a way of settling on a few great questions, with little regard for the expectations of pundits, and even less concern for the carefully crafted strategies of the candidates themselves. These questions are rarely easy. Politicians usually avoid them for just that reason. And so it is good when events intrude on the familiar routine of stale soundbites, staged rallies, and over-managed messages, and turn to the concerns of the people themselves. In this election, the price and security of energy in America is one of those great questions.

It is an urgent question because the rising price of oil has brought hardship to our country, and threatens to bring much more. Gasoline at well over four dollars a gallon is bad enough all by itself, but it also affects the price of everything else. The cost of living is rising. The value of paychecks is falling. Many of our citizens can’t keep up, and we need to think first of them. As a country, we find ourselves caught between the rock of slower growth and the hard place of inflation. All of this, in large part, because the price of oil is too high, the supply of oil is too uncertain, and we depend on oil too much.

Energy security is a vital question because it concerns America’s most fundamental interests, and above all the safety of our citizens from the violence of the world. All the tact of diplomacy cannot conceal a blunt reality. When we buy foreign oil, we are enriching some of our worst enemies. And in the Middle East, Venezuela, and elsewhere, these regimes know how to use the power of that wealth.

In the case of Iran, despite our own sanctions, they use it to pursue nuclear weapons. They use it to threaten Israel and other democracies. Elsewhere, oil wealth allows undemocratic governments to control their own people — to crush dissent and to subjugate women. They use it to finance terrorists around the world and criminal syndicates in our own hemisphere. These are some of the most stagnant and oppressive societies on Earth, held back by oil-rich elites who would not last long if their own people had a choice in the matter. From these elites, we get the oil that fuels our productive economy. From us, they get the money that preserves their unjust power. Moreover, by relying upon oil from the Middle East, we not only provide wealth to the sponsors of terror — we provide high-value targets to the terrorists themselves. Across the world are pipelines, refineries, transit routes, and terminals for the oil we r ely on. And Al Qaeda terrorists know where they are.

Even if these other interests were not in the balance, America would still need to follow the straightest path to energy security, because of a threat literally gathering around the Earth itself. Back when Americans first learned to associate the word “energy” with “crisis,” we didn’t fully understand how fossil fuel emissions retain heat within the atmosphere. We didn’t know that over time these greenhouse gasses could warm the planet. We didn’t know they could melt glaciers and ice sheets, or raise the waters and alter the balance that sustains life. Good stewardship, prudence, and simple common sense demand that we act to meet this challenge, act quickly, and act together.

Energy security requires unity because it is not just one issue among many — another box on the candidate questionnaire. Our country’s need for a safe, clean, and affordable supply of energy is not just one more competitor for attention in Washington, one more special interest in an overcrowded field. The great issue of energy security is the sum total of so many problems that confront our nation. And it demands of us that we shake off old ways, negotiate new hazards, and make hard choices long deferred.

This is a matter that has confounded nearly twenty Congresses and seven presidents. Yet even now our energy debates carry the echoes of ten, twenty, or even thirty years ago. We hear the same calls for new energy taxes, instead of new energy production. We are offered the same agenda of inaction — that long recitation of things we cannot do, energy we cannot produce, refineries we cannot build, plants we cannot approve, coal we cannot use, technologies we cannot master. The timid litany of limitations goes on and on. And it says more about the culture of Washington than it does about the character of America.

Obama FOXNews Interview Transcript (6-26-08)

Obama appeared on FOX's "Your World with Neil Cavuto." Read the entire transcript:

GLICK: Two developments today that I want to get your reaction on. First of all, the Supreme Court decision today, as you know, that struck down the D.C. handgun ban, what's your reaction to that?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I have said consistently that I believe the Second Amendment is an individual right. And that was the essential decision that the Supreme Court came down on. And it also recognized that, even though we have an individual right to bear arms, that — that right can be limited by sensible, reasonable gun laws.

The D.C. law, according to the Supreme Court, went too far. And now the key is going to be, I think, for us to come together and say, people do have an individual right, and there's nothing wrong with common sense gun laws, background checks, keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill, and creating what I think is the common sense belief among people that we can both uphold our traditions with respect to firearms and prevent the senseless killings that we see on the streets of so many American cities.

GLICK: President Bush came out earlier this morning talking about, in essence, lifting the sanctions against North Korea. If you were president, you were in that situation, would you deal with it the same way?

OBAMA: Well, I have not yet had a chance to review the declarations that were made by North Korea. And I think it's important for Congress to review it before Congress lifts these sanctions.

But, assuming that North Korea has fully disclosed its plutonium operations, its enriched uranium operations, as well as some of the issues surrounding proliferation that I think are so important, and it follows through on the additional steps that are already outlined in the agreement, then I think it's a positive development.

And it indicates what can be accomplished when we have direct diplomacy even with our adversaries, that the well-structured — as in the words of Ronald Reagan, we have got to trust, but verify.

But this issue of nuclear nonproliferation is so critical. We let it slip away for too long. Now is the time for us to get back together with other countries around the world and make sure that we do not have the kind of proliferation that could fall into the hands of terrorists.