Earmarks and Bipartisan Hypocrisy

Washington, D.C. is a wonderful place. Perhaps its hallmark is the lack of shame. A qualification for high office is being able to engage in the rankest hypocrisy with a straight face. It happens all the time.

The other day House Minority Leader John Boehner criticized the ruling Democrats for failing to eliminate earmarks, the principle vehicle for delivering pork to voters. And there certainly is cause for complaint. Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) observes that the Democrats so far have approved 2,653 earmarks costing $13.2 billion. Reports the Washington Times:

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Mr. Emanuel’s assertion that new Democratic rules have resulted in a more open and transparent earmark process is “simply false.”

Mr. Boehner said new rules adopted by House Democrats prohibit lawmakers from forcing a debate and vote on individual earmarks contained in authorizing and tax bills brought to the chamber floor.

“Tax and authorizing bills have been vehicles for some of the most indefensible earmarks produced by Congress, under both Democrats and Republicans,” wrote Mr. Boehner in a piece that appeared Saturday on the National Review’s online edition.

House Republicans in June blocked a Democratic proposal to allow earmarks in spending bills only during the conference process — when a limited number of lawmakers from each chamber meet to hammer out differences between the bills passed — while barring them during committee hearings and on the floor.

Many Republicans say the only way to reform the earmark process is to eliminate the practice.

All true, but don’t expect that to happen even if Republicans retake control of Congress. According to CAGW, in 1994 the last Democratic Congress approved 1,318 earmarks costing $7.8 billion. Under the new Republican majority those numbers rose the following year to 1,439 and $10 billion, respectively. Last year the GOP Congress approved 9,963 earmarks costing $29 billion.

Similarly charming is President George W. Bush’s threat to veto nine of the dozen appropriations bills so far passed by the House. His fiscal fidelity would be worth celebrating … had he bothered to veto even one appropriation when the Republican majority was pushing domestic spending up at rates not seen since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Then there was the Medicare drug benefit, adding some $9 trillion in unfunded liabilities to America’s (un)balance sheet. And U.S. officials lecture other governments on how to make democracy work.