Friday, December 21, 2007

TV Ad: My Christmas Story

It seems this election cycle we are treated to paid commercials telling us something about themselves, or what they want us to think of them and Christmas.

Of course it is no surprise that Senator McCain draws on his years as a POW.

Rudy Giuliani's Web Holiday Video

OK, it is Christmas and why not have a little fun.

Hillary's Presents, Who Paid?

I Can anyone think of a worse commercial for a person running for President?
Does she think that we are too stupid to know who pays for the presents?

Mike Huckabee - Christmas

I am not a fan of Mike Huckabee, but darn, what is the problem?

A bookcase in the background, image of a cross.

What else would you expect?

Isn't any complaint really another example of the Left's effort to eliminate religion form the Public Square?

Give me a break.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Earmarks, Wasting Our Money

One of my biggest gripes against President Bush is that he has not used his veto pen to control spending.

I suppose a lot of that has to do with Republicans having control of both the Senate and House of Representatives. While his popularity plummets a hard political reality is he wouldn't want to tick off his own party.

So what happens is the taxpayer gets soaked as our representatives use the federal treasury as a personal fund to garner popularity among those who benefit from this abuse of power.

Well, a funny thing happened which puts a smile on my face.

An attachment to $516 billion omnibus spending bill in place by house and Senate committees are vulnerable to simply not being spent.

We can thank our Founding Fathers for this small relief from this free spending by Congress.

I would rather see a battle royal bringing the issue of "earmarks" to national attention, in the meantime may as well take what we can get.

The End of Earmarks?
December 20, 2007

For those of us fated to watch annual State of the Union addresses, the most entertaining moments are when the Members all rise to cheer and applaud a Presidential statement they know is popular but they also know will never happen. Such a moment occurred in January, when President Bush declared:

"Over 90% of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate -- they are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You didn't vote them into law. I didn't sign them into law. . . . The time has come to end this practice."

The Members whooped it up, with wide ironic grins, and even Mr. Bush had to smile at the spectacle. Well, here's an idea: How about if Mr. Bush now demonstrates that he meant what he said by making the Members live up to their applause?

The President has the opportunity to do this as part of the $516 billion omnibus spending bill that Congress passed this week. That bill contains 8,993 special-interest earmarks, but most of them aren't even in the language of the law itself. Instead, they are part of an accompanying 500-page "committee report" compiled by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and staff. We doubt most Members have even seen the report.

Mr. Bush has said he'll sign the actual spending bill, but that doesn't mean he and his executive branch must spend that money on the earmarks in the committee report. A December 18 legal analysis by attorney Todd Tatelman for the Congressional Research Service concludes that "because the language of committee reports do not meet the procedural requirements of Article I of the Constitution -- specifically, bicameralism and presentment -- they are not laws and, therefore, are not legally binding on executive agencies." In plainer English, this means committee reports have not been formally passed by both houses and "presented" to the President for signing.

This means Mr. Bush has the legal authority not to fund these projects, which lack the force of law. Mr. Bush's own budget office has asserted this authority before. Earlier this year, then budget director Rob Portman instructed federal agencies that they could disregard committee report language on earmarks. "Unless a project or activity is specifically identified in statutory text, agencies should not obligate funds on the basis of earmarks contained in Congressional reports or documents," Mr. Portman wrote. That's why there were fewer earmarks last year.

Federal agencies would still be obligated to spend the money appropriated by Congress. But they could choose to spend those dollars on higher priorities that would benefit all taxpayers, rather than on favors for special interests or political donors. For example, the $700,000 for a bike trail in Minneapolis could be used to rebuild the collapsed bridge in that city and to strengthen others.

We hear the White House is exploring this option and that some in the Senate are urging him to take it. This won't make the President popular with Appropriators in either party, but it isn't as if he needs to store political capital for a reform agenda in his last year in office. Taxpayers would be grateful that someone is finally trying to discipline an earmark process that wastes money and has a record of inviting corruption. Mr. Bush has both the law and public opinion on his side.