To The Daily Sun,
The U.S. House and Senate passed a ban on (budget) earmarks four years ago. Unsurprisingly, lawmakers have found a way to skirt the prohibition and incorporate their pet projects into massive pieces of legislation like the $1.1 trillion omnibus (spending bill). The latest gambit for lawmakers in the House and Senate is discussion of ending the ban as a way to shift spending power from the president back to Congress, according to those in favor of ending the ban on earmarks.
Included in the $1.1 trillion government spending bill, signed by president, are a number of provisions serving members' districts and interests. Here are a couple of examples:
Sen. Richard Shelby, the chairman of an Appropriations Subcommittee and senior member of the panel, touted his success in inserting a measure allowing the Alabama-based United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin that builds rockets, to continue buying rocket engines from Russia.
Shelby also attached language to the government spending bill that affects a dispute between Alabama and Georgia over regional water rights though, according to National Journal, Shelby's provision was removed from the bill after lawmakers in the Georgia delegation objected.
Despite the inclusion of his pet projects — though Shelby's office noted that his provisions don't cost taxpayers any money in the $1.1 trillion spending bill — Shelby opposed it.
Also included in the bill was nearly $948 million to the General Services Administration for the construction of federal courthouses in a number of cities, including Nashville, Tennessee; Toledo, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina; Des Moines, Iowa; Greenville, South Carolina; Anniston, Alabama;, Savannah, Georgia, and San Antonio, Texas. The inclusion of the funding for the courthouses garnered praise from Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Will Hurd who represent the cities and states where the courthouses will undergo construction.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has in the past warned of waste in the construction of federal courthouses. In a 2010 report, the GAO reported that the General Services Administration (GSA), which receives the money for federal courthouse construction built an extra 3.5 million square feet of space that cost $835 million to build and $51 million per year to operate. A 2013 report from the GAO called on the GSA to increase transparency in courthouse construction to better reflect the costs to taxpayers.
There is a reason why following a normal budgetary process is a good thing. If we would do that our representatives could know what is in the bills before they vote on them. There would be a restoration of the deliberative process. The power of the purse would be returned to the legislative branch. The elected monarchy would have its power reduced. That would be a good thing. Nearly 50 years of deficit spending is unsustainable. The debt is weighing heavily on the nation's opportunities and her freedom.
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