I mentioned yesterday that Senate conservatives were pushing hard for the Senate not to pass any pork-laden appropriations bills over the last few weeks of GOP control. The push is in part on principle and in part to send a signal to the base that “we get it.” But now, a source from the hill sends out this message about a secret appropriations committee meeting today in the Senate:
Our understanding is that the GOP appropriations “cardinals” are split on whether or not to abandon their quest for earmarks this or year to move forward as if last week’s election never happened.According to our source, approximately half of the Senate GOP cardinals favored a “continuing resolution” to provide government funding for the remainder of this year. Under a continuing resolution, no new earmarks would receive federal funding. However, a number of other Senate GOP cardinals wanted to move forward with individual appropriations bills to ensure that their earmarks would receive funding as soon as possible.
This afternoon Heritage hosted a lively panel of bloggers and others to talk about the significance of the passage of the Coburn/Obama transparency in government bill. The panel included Justin Rood (TPMmuckraker), Bill Allison (Sunlight Foundation), N.Z. Bear (truthlaidbear.com), Mark Tapscott (Washington Examiner/Tapscott’s Copy Desk) and Rebecca Carr (Cox News).
The panel talked about the formation of right/left coalitions and the potential for future cooperation, the power of the blogosphere to check government, the virtues of S. 2590, the rapidity with which the blogosphere can mobilize itself and much more.
The Office of Management and Budget is turning to bloggers for help in pushing the OMB’s government reform plans after last week’s success of its pet project, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, also known as the Coburn-Obama bill.
Today at 12:00 at Heritage a panel of bloggers and media types will assemble to talk about the passage of the Coburn-Obama transparency bill:
Over the summer a coalition of conservative and liberal bloggers formed to support legislation championed in the Senate by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-IL). The Federal Funding Accountability Act promised to create a “google for government” resulting in more open and more transparent government. Finally, the taxpayer would be given the power to track the often shadowy shifting of federal funds in regard to grants and contracts. On September 26, President Bush signed S. 2590 into law and, in so doing, awarded a united blogosphere its first major policy victory. Join us as a panel of bloggers and journalists explains how the blogosphere was able to push a once-stalled piece of legislation across the finish line.
Last night, I learned from a source on the Hill that the new earmark reform rule was already being manipulated by a pork-loving Congressman.
The longer version of this story is detailed here by Captain Ed. The shorter version is that a bill was debated on last night under suspension of the rules; therefore the new earmark reform rule technically didn’t apply. Congressman David Oberstar (who went 0-for-19 on the Flake amendments) used that opportunity to insert some pork into the bill without claiming it as his own.
Yesterday, before debate on the bill started, the earmark was found and the author of it was subsequently identified as Oberstar. This was then brought to the attention of Majority Leader Boehner. To his credit, I’m told that Boehner asked Oberstar to go to the House floor to explain the situation.
Andy has video of Oberstar explaining on his site.
This morning I attended the Presidential bill signing of the Federal Funding Accountability Act, more commonly know as the Coburn-Obama transparency bill. The bill signing took place in the Eisenhower Executive Office building (pic below).
The room was small, and was filled with bloggers, activists from government watchdog groups, capitol hill staffers and reporters.
The President told the gathered crowd that government spends”a lot of time and a lot of effort collecting your money. We should show the same amount of effort in reporting how we spend it.”
Bush was flanked by lawmakers who were responsible for helping pass the bill.
Here is one of the better pics of Bush, snapped by Mary Katharine who was sitting in front of me.
Finally, the signing…
Bush touted the bill and gave credit to the congressional sponsors whose hard work made it possible. Apparently a tip of the hat to the bloggers did not make the cut…but that’s ok. At least they were invited.
Also noteworthy, Bush used the opportunity to call for congressional passage of a line item veto. Not sure how the congressional Dems flanking Bush felt about that…
In the extended section is the White House fact sheet distributed at this event.
The blogosphere championed Coburn-Obama transparency in government bill will be signed by the President this morning at 9:45. I was fortunate enough to snag an invitation to the bill signing. I will write about it later.
The President plans a public bill signing ceremony this coming Tuesday, September 26 in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It looks as though the White House may be inviting some bloggers to the signing. Good stuff…
The DC Examiner lauds the blogosphere-enabled passage of the Coburn-Obama Transparency in Government bill:
Now with Coburn-Obama, every citizen with access to the Internet will be within a few mouse clicks of knowing where their tax dollars are going and who is benefitting from them. Such access moves our democracy beyond Government 1.0 web sites that mainly just provide passive information and encourages more active and informed citizenry. Call it the dawn of Government 2.0. It is especially fitting that a database of federal spending — the blood flow of governance — marks the opening of the new era.
Second, Coburn-Obama is notable for the rapidity with which it was passed — introduced in early April — and especially for the manner in which new Internet-based media of the Blogosphere generated a groundswell of public support and in the process overcame the blatant misuse of Senate rules by two Old Bull senators just when it looked as if they had successfully bottled up the measure in legislative purgatory.
The experts will do well to study the campaign for Coburn-Obama closely for several reasons, not the least of which are that from the beginning it included people and groups from across the political spectrum and the fact that the Internet gave them unprecedented power to assess the situation at any given moment, distribute key information throughout the ranks of supporters and media and generate highly focused action wherever it was most needed. Old media was mostly on the sidelines throughout. Coburn-Obama is the first bill advanced by an “Army of Davids” acting with “the Wisdom of Crowds.” (go ahead, google those phrases, then buy both books).
GOP House leadership today succeeded in changing House earmarking rules to require members of Congress to place their name by all earmarks that they request. The vote was 245-171.
This is another step towards increased transparency in government. Kudos to House leadership for making this happen.
UPDATE: Majority Leader John Boehner:
“Today was an important day for the House as an institution. Passage of these earmark reforms is a sign that Republicans are returning to the reform agenda that closed the House Bank and House Post Office, ended decades of Democrat rule in Congress, and put us in the majority 12 years ago. Changing the way Washington does business starts with changing the way Congress does business. Republicans recognize that, and today we took real action to change the way in which Congress spends the people’s money.
“Members should be ready and willing to put their name on the projects they request, and if they aren’t willing to do that they shouldn’t expect the American people to pay for it. Bringing greater sunshine into the earmarking process will increase public confidence in how the American people’s tax dollars are spent. Speaker Hastert and Chairman Dreier deserve great credit for their leadership on this issue, and I’d like to thank all our committee chairmen and members who have worked with us to bring greater accountability and transparency in how Congress spends taxpayer dollars.”
RSC Chairman Mike Pence:
“Today by adopting H. Res. 1000, we will simply require that we earmark the earmarks.
“Transparency promotes accountability, and this institution would do well to embrace this modest but meaningful step toward greater transparency.
“As Jeff Flake, a great leader on this issue, said earlier, it saddens me to see evidence of the low regard that millions of Americans hold the institution of Congress.”
“It is a historic institution filled with men and women of both parties of goodwill and integrity.
“By adopting this modest but meaningful earmarking reform today, we will take an important step toward restoring public confidence in the fundamental integrity of our legislative process at the national level.
The House of Represenatives will vote to reform their earmarking rules today. Andy over at the Club tells me that according to CSPAN Harold Ford will vote “no.” If moderate Dems like Ford all go this way, there could be trouble.
Glenn Reynolds has a list of Republican Appropriators who are questionable.
And here is a video with much better sound quality that covers a lot of the speakers from yesterday:
UPDATE: Congressional Quarterly reports that as expected Democrats will not support the measure, instead pretending to be in favor of even more strenuous reform:
As House GOP leaders pushed to round up votes Thursday for a proposed House rules change requiring disclosure of earmark sponsors, the chamber’s top Democrat slammed the proposal, saying it does not amount to true reform.
Republicans leaders hope to overcome concerns raised by appropriators that the resolution (H Res 1000), which is scheduled for a vote later Thursday, does not treat appropriations, tax and other authorizing bills equally.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., wrote to GOP appropriators urging them to support the resolution.
“Our conference has made it clear that it wants this reform. It is now time to put this reform into our rules,’’ the Speaker wrote. “As we begin to work under this new rule, if we discover loopholes or problems that need to be addressed, we can correct them in the rules package at the start of the 110th Congress.”
That, of course, would depend on whether Republicans retain control of the House in the Nov. 7 elections. If Democrats take over, they would draft the new House rules package. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made clear Thursday that she has little use for the GOP earmark proposal.
She said the rules change would not reduce a single earmark or save a single dollar. New rules should apply equally to all committees, she said, and not leave any “escape hatches.”
With this in mind, House Republicans have blasted out an email listing five questions for Nancy Pelosi:
1. Will you OPPOSE comprehensive earmark reform considering you have issued press releases touting nearly half a billion dollars worth of taxpayer-funded earmarks for your congressional district?
2. Will you OPPOSE comprehensive earmark reform even though you told the Wall Street Journal that earmarks are a “monster” that hurt Congress and that you would do away with them altogether if it were up to you?
3. Will you OPPOSE comprehensive earmark reform considering the current Labor-HHS appropriations bill contains $7.9 million in earmarks for your congressional district?
4. Will you OPPOSE comprehensive earmark reform considering a key issue under active discussion among Democrats about their caucus rules, according to The Hill, is “publicly identifying which member sponsored an earmark”?
5. Will you OPPOSE comprehensive earmark reform and support the efforts of Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), a senior Democrat member of the House Appropriations Committee, who publicly bragged that if he is ever put in charge of a House spending panel, he will “earmark the [expletive] out of it”?
The House last night passed their version of the Coburn/Obama transparency in government bill. Now it heads to the President’s desk for his signature. A press release announcing passage from Roy Blunt’s office is in the extended section.