During a train ride Thursday, I picked up a stray copy of the New York Times and dove in. One story which caught my eye was this one, which discussed how members of Congress tacked on earmarks to the faltered omnibus bill. The Times took up space to inform readers that a few hypocritical Republicans had requested earmarks while simultaneously speaking out against them. I'll admit, the news annoyed me. But I was (not) surprised to see that the Times failed to report on the Democrats' earmark requests.
On Friday, the Washington Examiner's Byron York set the record straight about the real earmark culprits exposed this week as the omnibus was abandoned, even by its most ardent supporters. While some Republicans requested earmarks -- totaling $1 billion in spending -- the Democrats requested over 18,000 earmarks, totaling more than $51 billion:
Press coverage of the budget frenzy on Capitol Hill has suggested that pork-barrel earmark spending is still a bipartisan problem, that after months of self-righteous rhetoric about fiscal discipline, Republicans and Democrats remain equal-opportunity earmarkers.
It's not true. A new analysis by a group of federal-spending watchdogs shows a striking imbalance between the parties when it comes to earmark requests. Democrats remain raging spenders, while Republicans have made enormous strides in cleaning up their act. In the Senate, the GOP made only one-third as many earmark requests as Democrats for 2011, and in the House, Republicans have nearly given up earmarking altogether -- while Democrats roll on.
The watchdog groups -- Taxpayers for Common Sense, WashingtonWatch.com, and Taxpayers Against Earmarks -- counted total earmark requests in the 2011 budget. Those requests were made by lawmakers earlier this year, but Democratic leaders, afraid that their party's spending priorities might cost them at the polls, decided not to pass a budget before the Nov. 2 elections. This week, they distilled those earmark requests -- threw some out, combined others -- into the omnibus bill that was under consideration in the Senate until Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled it Thursday night. While that bill was loaded with spending, looking back at the original earmark requests tells us a lot about the spending inclinations of both parties.
In the 2011 House budget, the groups found that House Democrats requested 18,189 earmarks, which would cost the taxpayers a total of $51.7 billion, while House Republicans requested just 241 earmarks, for a total of $1 billion.
Where did those GOP earmark requests come from? Just four Republican lawmakers: South Carolina Rep. Henry Brown, who did not run for re-election this year; Louisiana Rep. Joseph Cao, who lost his bid for re-election; maverick Texas Rep. Ron Paul; and spending king Rep. Don Young of Alaska. The other Republican members of the House -- 174 of them -- requested a total of zero earmarks.