“Frankly, don’t be surprised if he [Obama] outflanks us on this [earmark reform],” Flake said on Wednesday. “Don’t be surprised, because they know the trouble they can cause particularly in the kind of political environment where one party controls both Houses and the White House.”
(Earmarks are additional spending initiatives that many congressmen tack onto larger spending bills, usually to send federal money back to their district and state.)
Though Obama rarely spoke about earmarks on the campaign trail, his campaign Web site touts his “plan for restoring fiscal discipline” and calls him “a leader on earmark reform.”
But Nachama Soloveichik, spokeswoman for the conservative Club for Growth, told CNSNews.com that while there are encouraging signs for earmark reform in the 111th Congress – including the election of three earmark reformers to the top Republican leadership posts – she would be very surprised if reform comes from the White House or the Democratic side of the aisle in Congress.
“If Obama did put pressure on Congress to reform earmark spending, we would be the first to applaud him,” Soloveichik told CNSNews.com on Nov. 19. “But I don’t think he is a true believer.”
But Flake told CNSNews.com that Obama’s appointment of current chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), as his chief of staff could be a good sign for earmark reform.
“Rahm Emmanuel and I have had discussions for years about earmark reform,” said Flake. “You might see reform.”
“I hope they don’t outflank us, because I hope we lead, but I’ll work with them wherever for reform,” said Flake.
On Thursday, House Republicans stymied their leadership’s first attempts at earmark reform by voting down a proposal offered by Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and incoming Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) that would have barred Republican earmarking until Feb. 16.
It also would have set up a 10-member “Earmark Commission” to prepare a report with recommendations for “changing Washington’s broken spending practices.”
“The creation of this Earmark Commission reflects the desire of our conference to begin the 111th Congress with a heavy emphasis on reform,” said Cantor in a statement announcing the proposed rule change. “Reform is an ongoing process. The status quo is simply not acceptable.”
Sources told CNSNews.com on Friday that some of the Republicans who voted against the rule measure were anticipating a stimulus package later this year or early next year that holds great opportunity for adding earmarks.
According to the Capitol Hill publication Congressional Quarterly, Boehner commented after the measure had been defeated that the moratorium may not have been very effective anyway.
“I’m not sure the moratorium would have had that much impact,” said Boehner.