May 12, 2006

With the Stroke of a Pen

Hatched by Dafydd

I just heard a suggestion on Hugh Hewitt's radio show; the suggester attributed the thought to someone else, and danged if I know who it was. But it's a very provacative and tempting idea.

Suppose President Bush were to announce at a presser that, because he and the rest of the country are so disgusted by Congress spending like a drunken sailor, Bush pledges to veto all future spending bills with even a single earmark in them. Period. No exceptions... not even to fund the troops.

He would, of course, have to define what he means by "earmark," since the word has many different meanings. In particular, he would mean any expenditure for a specific project that is not explicitly voted on by the full House and Senate. Especially those earmarks that are not even contained in the legislation but only in the reports out of Appropriations. And especially especially those inserted during the joint conference that were not contained in either the House or Senate version of the bill.

This would not apply to untargeted funding of executive departments -- just congressionally-specified earmarks, where Congress tries to micromanage the disbursement of federal funds to aid specific members.

Unless Congress wants to come to a standstill, it would have to cease the practice of earmarking (by that definition). Any specific spending members consider important will have to be voted on by the full Congress. If a bill contains spending that representatives and senators never got a chance to vote on, the bill is axed, and Congress is back to square-one.

(Unless they can override the veto, of course; and there must be at least 34 spending hawks in the Senate or 146 in the House, which is enough to sustain the veto.)

There is no reason to believe that every proposed "earmark" is necessarily a bad idea... but that's the way to bet it. If it is a good idea, then trot it out into the open and let in the sunshine.

What would happen? I think the first hurdle to overcome would be denial: Congress' refusal to believe that Bush would really do it. After all, in five and a half years, he hasn't vetoed a single bill yet. That objection is easily overcome... and Big Lizards leaves the mechanism for overcoming that skepticism as an exercise to alert readers.

Next would be grief: there would be much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Members would call Bush all sorts of unpleasant names. But if Bush fought back in the press, the American people would definitely be on his side. I mean, out from under the Capitol Dome, who in the country actually supports such earmarks? People may defend one particular earmark -- the one that goes into their own pockets -- but even those folks condemn the practice when anyone else does it!

Finally, we will have acceptance: the Republicans in Congress will fairly quickly realize that they can jump out in front of this parade and everyone will think they've been baton twirlers the whole way.

I can't picture the Democrats applauding Bush for this. Sure, it would be in their best interest, too... but that means they'd have to be on the same side as President Bush, and their full-blown case of BDS will prevent them praising Bush for anything at all.

But that's all right; I have no problem with the president and the congressional GOP leading the charge to cut spending, and the Democrats manning the barricades of the status quo. Suits me fine!

This would be a staggeringly bold and creative proposal; and if Bush sticks to it (not too difficult -- just make Congress vote before spending!) I think it will dramatically raise his approval rating. Best of all, he can do it all by himself; it just takes a gut check.

Oh yeah, and it's good policy, too. By the way.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 12, 2006, at the time of 5:33 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Terrye

The only people in the country who care about this are fiscal conservatives who complain about helping old ladies by their insulin.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2006 1:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mastermind2much

I think this a wonderful idea, but President Bush won't do this; he isn't a conservative, much less a fiscal conservative. (I think he's a Nixon Republican.) You wouldn't know that by the insane hatred shown by the surrender monkeys. I want to see a reporter ask the following question of a presidential canidate: "If a bill comes before you filled with pork will you promise to veto it?"

The best explanation I have for the fact that the President hasn't used the veto is that the bills are cleared beforehand.

Lower Taxes
Cut Pork
Secure the Border
Prosecute people who leak classified information and other Al-Qaeda collaborators to the full extent of the law, even if they are Democrates.

The above hissed in response by: Mastermind2much [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 14, 2006 4:43 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Ah, but even a big-government "compassionate conservative" would oppose earmarks. It's a lousy, haphazard way of spending money.

Think of your own family. You sit down to make a family budget; but no matter how much you intend to spend instead of saving, you don't want each person -- after the budget is made out -- to be able to add expenditures of any amount on without telling anyone else.

So even as a big-spending Republican, Bush is still almost certainly opposed to congressional earmarks (since he can't use them).

And so is everyone else, except for those he, personally wants to add. That's the secret to killing them... nobody is going to stand up and defend them. Except Robert Byrd, of course!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 14, 2006 5:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles

@ TerryE,

Guess what, TerryE, raping me and everyone else in the country to "help" old ladies buy insulin is not only immoral, it is not Constitutionally a Federal function (and it doesn't help the old ladies either). If you want to help old ladies buy insulin, do so on your own time and with your own dime!


I think that the President can legally (and Constitutionally...yes this distiction shouldn't have to be made) refuse to spend the money allocated by slipping in language that wasn't in a bill when it was approved by the Congress. Why this hasn't been done, if what I have been told by some lawyers is accurate, is beyond me.

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 20, 2006 2:30 AM

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