As the $410 billion omnibus heads toward passage this week, Obama Administration flaks have been defending the president’s decision to ignore $8 billion in earmarks included in the bill by saying it is “last year’s business”. It’s a clever attempt to blame this final piece of irresponsible spending on the Bush Administration, but two things should be considered:
First, At the start of last year’s legislative session, the Democrats’ congressional leaders announced that there would be no appropriations process because they didn’t want to go through what they had gone through in 2007. That is, passing massive spending increases only to be vetoed by Bush. With the political winds at their back, they intentionally chose to punt almost all of our spending to next year precisely so a Democrat president could sign it into law. In other words, this was always intended to be Obama’s bill. If Obama were serious about removing earmarks or changing the process, he could have worked with Democrats to do just that last year so he’d have a clean bill to sign this year. He didn’t.
Second, the American people are nothing if not a ‘what have you done for me lately’ group and they understand that it’s going to be Obama’s name at the bottom when he signs the spending bill into law. Congress passed it, the president signs it, that means it’s yours, Mr. President. If you don’t like it, you have the power to stop it.
Frankly, cutting the earmarks would be low-risk, high-reward for the White House. For all the talk of phony bipartisanship on the part of the new executive, this should be an easy way for Obama to throw a real red meat bone to conservatives with little punishment from liberals. Earmarks represent less than 2% of the total bill. Even cutting just half of the earmarks would allow the president’s flaks to jump in front of the parade and declare a principled victory for Obama. It may even force many congressional Republicans to tone down their criticism of the president, lest they cede whatever credibility Republicans have left on fiscal issues.
Either way, the poor talking point about ‘last year’s biz’ is BS. It should have been last year’s business but was held over so Obama could approve it this year. It’s yet another example of Obama saying one thing and doing another.