31st May 2008
The battle is over the $601 billion defense authorization bill, which the House passed last week, 384-23. Earmarks are supposed to be included in the text of legislation. Instead, the Members have “airdropped,” in Beltway parlance, a huge number of them into the conference report that accompanies the bill. And, to ensure that the money is spent on these dark-of-night additions, the Members have included language insisting that federal agencies do so.
If Members think their projects are defensible, then put them into actual legislation and vote on them. But because this can be politically embarrassing – think “bridge to nowhere” – Members prefer to slip their pork into the conference reports that offer instructions on implementation. These reports are written by staff members, aren’t debated or voted on by Members, and aren’t signed by the President.