EDITORIAL: The omnibus bill

By NEMS Daily Journal

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., opposes, and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., will wait to make his position known on an omnibus spending bill in the Senate containing 429 earmarks for Mississippi projects and programs, all made jointly or separately by Cochran and Wicker.
The two Republicans, historically among the most effective earmark craftsmen in the Capitol, both have said they will abide by a two-year earmarks moratorium approved by the Republican caucus but not enacted by the whole Senate, but they differ on the fine points.
The omnibus bill contains $1.1 trillion in spending authorizations, funding most of the government, and time is running short because spending authority expires Saturday under a previously enacted continuing resolution.
Wicker issued a statement declaring his loyalty to the moratorium, but he did not flatly say he is opposed to the projects he placed in the spending stream earlier in the process. In sum, Wicker is credited with 199 earmarks, Cochran with 230.
Cochran has not commented, but he is the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee and works closely with its chairman, Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.
It is difficult to believe that city, county, state, education, and program agency leaders in Mississippi who sought the earmarked funds in the first place, plus military leaders who want the earmarks for bases and programs in Mississippi, called the senators and said, in effect, “Never mind.”
We are on the record in opposing the end of earmarks because they are useful and in some cases essential for important projects and programs in Mississippi. They are not extra spending, just the congressionally directed spending of money already in the budget. If earmarks cease it’s the equivalent of leaving billions of dollars on the table – and once left, it’s fair game for anyone to try to get it, including the Obama administration and every state’s congressional delegation.
Wicker and others say the voters spoke clearly in November about federal spending, deficits, debt and taxes. Yes, in general, but earmarks are not a major factor in the broad scheme of federal spending and are more about who decides where the money goes as opposed to how much is spent. Earmarks for the next cycle account for less than 1 percent of the federal budget.
The earmark moratorium is largely symbolic; the real cuts must come from larger and more general categories, which will be painful, even sacrificial.
Some leaders like Defense Secretary Robert Gates want the omnibus bill passed, and we think his side has the better argument.