Democrats and some appropriators in Congress are still reeling from last week’s conservative victory with regards to earmark spending. According to Congress Daily PM, they have thrown in the towell on the earmarks/pork projects game for now by agreeing to pass a year-long continuing resolution:
Democrats announced this afternoon they plan to enact a continuing resolution for the duration of FY07, after Republicans gave up on passing individually the nine appropriations bills covering the domestic portion of the federal budget. In its final hours Friday, Congress passed a stopgap measure running through Feb. 15, and the incoming chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees said they would simply extend the measure out rather than attempting to pass the leftover FY07 spending bills. President Bush is expected to submit his FY08 budget and a new supplemental spending request for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in early February. “It is important that we clear the decks quickly so that we can get to work on the American people’s priorities, the president’s anticipated war funding request, and a new budget,” incoming House Appropriations Chairman Obey and Senate Appropriations Chairman Byrd said in a joint statement. “After discussions with our colleagues, we have decided to dispose of the Republican budget leftovers by passing a year-long joint resolution … we must turn the page on the Republican failures and work together in the best interests of the American people.”
Obey and Byrd said they would make “limited adjustments” in that GOP-written CR to address important policy priorities, but that the extended version would have none of the earmarks contained in the remaining FY07 spending bills. The Democrats said they were placing a “moratorium” on all earmarks until reforms are put in place. “We will work to restore an accountable, above-board, transparent process for funding decisions and put an end to the abuses that have harmed the credibility of Congress,” they said. Only two FY07 spending bills have been signed into law, the Defense and Homeland Security measures. That leaves about $463 billion in unfinished agency budgets that will be funded under a yearlong CR. Obey and Byrd noted the last time all the spending bills were completed separately and on time was 1994 — the last year of Democratic control of Congress.
And here is more from the Washington Post:
The announcement appears to be a victory for conservative budget reformers, such as Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Tom Price (R-Ga.), who circulated a petition last week calling for a resolution that would extend funding through the rest of the year, but without earmarks. That petition, however, called for all domestic programs to be funded at the lowest levels called for in either the House or Senate versions.
In contrast, Obey and Byrd indicated that they would seek adjustments in spending levels to satisfy Democrats and moderate Republicans who were upset by the austere funding bills passed by the House Appropriations Committee. In particular, the measure to fund labor, health and education programs fell billions of dollars short of the Senate-approved levels, and the levels that even many House Republicans said were acceptable.
The biggest victory would be for those lawmakers who have crusaded against earmarks, or home-district pet projects. Virtually all of the bills that pass the Senate and House appropriations committees contain such projects. For the fiscal year that began in October and will end Sept. 30, the slate will be wiped clean.
UPDATE: This story is from yesterday’s edition of Roll Call:
As arguably the Senate’s new leading conservative, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is hoping to position his party’s right wing as a potential swing bloc in the chamber — even reaching out to incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
After hearing that Reid is considering curbing earmarks as well as thinking about keeping spending levels flat for the rest of fiscal 2007, DeMint — who was just elected chairman of the conservative Senate Republican Steering Committee — called Reid last Thursday to offer his help.
“I just called him up to tell him that I’ve got a bunch of guys over here who will vote for” keeping spending levels flat by passing a continuing resolution until the beginning of fiscal 2008. Additionally, he said, “If they did something on earmark reform and transparency in spending, they might be in the majority for a long time. It’s something I couldn’t get my own guys to do.”
…DeMint said he was ready to help Reid finalize those decisions, saying, “I just let him know that I don’t care who gets the credit. If we get the right thing done and it makes them look good, I’m fine with it.”
In an odd twist, then, a man known more for fiercely defending conservative ideals is saying he’d rather work with the new Democratic majority than against them. Still, true to form, DeMint warned that Democrats must consult with conservatives before measures come to the floor if they want optimum cooperation, especially on appropriations bills.
“We’re not trying to clog them up, but if they want to continue earmarks, we will clog them,” he said, referring to the conservatives’ chief complaint about the Congressional appropriations process — targeted spending provisions, or earmarks, that have not been vetted by committee.