Omnibus passage Earmarks remain helpful in appropriations process

Mississippi’s senators voted correctly and in our state’s interests Tuesday night in supporting passage of the 2009 omnibus appropriations bill to fund nine federal departments and earmarked programs unresolved since the budget year started in October.
Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, both Republicans, voted with the 62-35 majority to end debate.
Wicker’s and Cochran’s legislative skills include widely successful earmarking (specific appropriations for Mississippi projects) for programs, agencies and institutions in Mississippi.
The six Senate Republicans who voted to invoke cloture ending debate were: Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Kit Bond (Mo.), Cochran (Miss.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Shelby (Ala.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Arlen Specter (Pa.), and Wicker (Miss.).
Those Republicans’ votes defied the super-heated rhetoric from many in their own party, with many of those voting against the bill still standing to gain politically from hundreds of millions in earmarks they made in a bill they ultimately opposed.
Those same politicians scream for transparency on the earmarks issue but cloud their own work and results at the most basic level.
In practical terms for Mississippi, virtually all the earmarks made by the state’s senators or members of the U.S. House, including by some who voted against the omnibus bill, translate into jobs, wages and investment in Mississippi.
Yes, lobbyists were involved – some professional and some representing institutional interests on a more personal level.
We agree that more transparency would make the process less covert in terms of quiet, little-noticed actions, and it probably would help separate the beneficial from the wasteful.
First, however, a voting majority must agree with those who would abolish earmarks, and that seems unlikely, at best. When a majority in both parties use earmarks it’s difficult to see a situation in which most would vote to diminish their prerogatives.
“I believe the government spends too much money, which is why I voted recently against hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts and the trillion dollar so-called ‘stimulus’ bill,” said Wicker. “This (omnibus) funding bill was different in that it was made up of a number of unfinished regular appropriations bills … The bill also includes funding for important projects across Mississippi, including: $77 million for Mississippi River levees; $10 million for the Port of Gulfport … and $2.8 million for Highway 9 near the Blue Springs Toyota facility.”
All federal money will be spent somewhere, whether earmarked or program appropriations.
Earmarks are constitutional; the practice should continue for clearly justified projects open to public view.

Joe Rutherford

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