Taxpayer Group Accuses Dems of Broken Budget Promise

By Matt Purple | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - The Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has already broken his promise to publicize congressional earmarks or pork, according to the Washington group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

David Williams, vice president of policy at CAGW, said Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey of Wisconsin pledged in January to make the requested earmarks public during floor debate on their respective spending bills.

Obey's subsequent decision to reveal the pork projects in August, after the appropriations bills have already been voted on, represents a broken promise, Williams said.

"To go back on this promise and to not make earmarks public until after the vote is outrageous," Williams told Cybercast News Service. "By that time, it's too late for taxpayers and voters to do anything to get rid of these things."

Obey's actions contradict new rules that House Democrats wrote in January, mandating that identification of all earmark requests and their sponsors be publicized with spending bills themselves.

Such requests usually total billions of dollars and, although they only account for about 2 percent of discretionary spending, CAGW has been demanding earmark reform for some time.

"Legitimate earmark reform would be a huge step forward," Williams said. "Billions of dollars are still billions of dollars. And if Congress can't get rid of a teapot museum, how are they going to deal with big issues like immigration?"

Obey insists that the change in strategy was necessary for his committee's staff to process the 36,000 earmarks that have been requested thus far.

Republican lawmakers assailed Democrats for allegedly breaking their promise. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Democrats were "still making it easy to hide wasteful spending from the American people" and accused them of "making a mockery of their pledge to make the appropriations process more open and transparent."

However, Williams called Boehner's criticism "a bit like one bank robber complaining about another bank robber."

"It's nice that he [Boehner] said it, but there's a credibility gap considering the increase in pork and earmarking under Republican leadership," Williams added.

House Republicans have since threatened to stall action on the appropriations process altogether.

Despite his criticism of spending under previous Republican Congresses, Williams said that Republicans have historically been more sympathetic to CAGW's cause than Democrats.

"It's just a small percentage of Republicans that are fiscally conservative, but they are out there," he said.

When asked to name congressmen whom CAGW supported, Mr. Williams named Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Both have publicly criticized Obey's actions. Williams also identified Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as being good on spending issues.

Earning dishonors were Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), whom Williams called the "alpha porkers." He also condemned Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa..), whom CAGW named May's "Porker of the Month."

Williams said CAGW had some reason to be hopeful about the future, noting that a government divided between a Republican president and a Democrat Congress was one that might pass spending bills less easily. But he remained cynical about the Democrats' pledges to reduce appropriations.

"There wasn't this huge change of philosophy in November. It was a campaign theme that worked, and it duped the American people into thinking there's going to be change," he said.

"But the reality is, they're still politicians, and they're still going to spend our money like crazy," he added.

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