GOP leadership set to pull back curtain

As noted yesterday, the House of Representatives this week is set to consider two measures that will drastically improve government transparency when it comes to federal spending. The less controversial measure is the Senate-passed Coburn/Obama transparency in government bill. This bill would create a “google for government” database in which bloggers, outside groups and concerned citizens could derive information pertaining to federal grants, contracts etc.

The more controversial measure is a proposed House rules change that would change the current culture of earmarking in Congress. Under the proposed change, all committee reports for appropriations bills, authorization bills or tax bills will be required to contain a list of all the earmarks in the legislation along with the names of the member who requested the earmark. Also, conference reports will be required to contain the same list with additions from the conference. Members who find a particular earmark inappropriate or egregious will have the freedom to highlight that project.

The House Rules Committee is holding a committee markup on the rule change tomorrow and a vote has been scheduled for Thursday. The vote will be close.

Appropriators (of course) have problems with the legislation. As many as 15 appropriators could oppose the measure as it is currently written. There is hope of winning some Democratic votes though. The place to look for Democrat votes will be amongst the 35 moderates — a remnant of the blue dogs — who voted for line item veto powers for the President. But these votes will not come easy.

Democratic Leadership will be rediscent reluctant to allow GOP leadership a “win” on an issue that is an intra-party problem (appropriators vs. rest of party) — especially because the issue is crucial to the fiscal conservative base who is considering what kind of mood to be in come November. As such, there may be significant pressure from Democratic leadership to scuttle GOP attempts to make this new rule.

At this late hour one such attempt has materialized. Congressional Quarterly reports that DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel is distributing a “dear colleague” this afternoon announcing his intention to amend the earmark reform rule with tougher language that would “specify that no House member, spouse, or immediate family member could personally benefit from the awarding of an earmark.” Sounds great…and it is…but Emanuel, who is tasked with retaking the House for the Democrats this fall is fully aware that any changes at this late hour to the already precarious deal will result in the bottom falling out on the rule change. As such, Emanuel’s change is unlikely to be included in the Rules committee markup and will therefore not be considered — providing Democratic leadership with the perfect “out” for not supporting the bill while simultaneously claiming the “reform” mantle as their own.

While I like Emanuel’s proposal, I have trouble trusting his genuinness.

Conservatives in the blogosphere who championed the Coburn/Obama bill should champion this rules change because in many significant ways it mirrors the intentions of Coburn/Obama. Just as Coburn/Obama allows watchdogs to put the name of a federal grantee next to a grant, this rules change allows watchdogs to put the name of the member next to the project. This is another great step towards shining even more sunlight on the government spending process.

As a friend explained to me today, “Republicans all agree that there is a problem, but not everyone agrees on the exact solution. This rules change allows us to open up the hood of the car and figure out what is wrong with the engine. If we never even open up the hood of the car, then it will continue to backfire on us.”

It’s time to open up the hood of the car. I suspect more than a few bloggers will have some ideas about what is wrong with the engine and how to fix it.

9 Responses to “GOP leadership set to pull back curtain”

  1. TimChapmanBlog.com » Blog Archive » Boehner: Earmark reform now Says:

    […] An important vote indeed. […]

  2. Nathan Hall Says:

    What exactly is wrong with Emanuel’s ammendment? I’m sure he his motives are nefarious enough, but it should be passed anyway. If my Republican representatives vote against such an obviously just provision to protect a few (or many) theives in their midst, I’m inclined to vote against them in November. Being slightly less corrupt than the Dems just isn’t enough.

  3. Matthew Goggins Says:

    I came here from Instapundit — thanks for letting us know about this rules change. I poked around your blog a little, it’s a great blog.

    I think it is very impressive the way blogs and others have pressured the Senate to pass the earmarks bill. I’m hopeful that this is just the beginning of a new dynamic in the Congress.

    Question: In paragraph 5, do you mean “reticent” where you wrote “rediscent”?

    Thanks again, good luck with everything.

  4. Hunter McDaniel Says:

    Unless there is something really toxic in the Emanuel bill, why can’t the main body of GOP representatives use it as leverage against the appropriators? IOW, let us pass the GOP bill or we’ll turn around and support Emmanuel’s bill.

    Two can play at this game.

  5. Brother Bark Says:

    The word “rediscent” undoubtedly should be “reluctant”. The word “reticent” seems difficult to apply to any member of Congress, regardless of the circumstances.

    http://www.answers.com/reticent&r=67

  6. Tim Says:

    Nathan,

    I agree with your sentiments. The problem is the appropriators. Making a deal with them is delicate, and a last minute offering like Emanuel’s is not in order according to House rules. It is a curveball designed to sink rule.

    Matthew,

    Thx for the compliments…and yes, I got the wrong word there.

  7. Nathan Says:

    The ammendment is not in order? Why would there be a vote, then, and how would it succeed in sinking the earmark bill if it does not even follow parlimentary procedure? Looks like the bill passed handily, by the way. A handful of appropriators, acting alone, couldn’t have sunk the bill if they wanted to.

  8. Tim Says:

    There was no vote on Emanuel’s amendment. It was not offered in the Rules Committee and therefore there was no vote as I understand it.

    It was a late-arriving amendment after a delicate deal had been brokered with appropriators.

    Granted, a handful of appropriators could not sink the rule. But appropriators working in lockstep combined with a unified Dem caucus could have sunk it. That was a fear.

    Thankfully it didn’t happen.

    Next time around they should go ahead and include Emanuel’s provision.

  9. Hunter McDaniel Says:

    Well it’s nice that we have a video camera monitoring the front-door of the barn now, but what other cracks can we expect the rats will use to get inside and eat our corn? If earmarks are inserted in a conference report by a Senator, will the House rules require that fact to be disclosed (even without the sponsor’s name)? Are there any procedural motions we need to be on the lookout for where this new rule might get “briefly suspended” on the basis on some made-up “emergency”?

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