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Harry Reid: Obama Should 'Back Off' on Earmark Ban

4 years ago
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President Obama stressed earmark elimination in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, but the message didn't hit home with one of his closest allies, Harry Reid.

In an interview with "NBC Nightly News," the Senate majority leader said Obama should "back off" on the idea.

Reid called Obama's statement that he would veto any legislation sent to him with earmarks included an "applause line" and "absolutely wrong. . . . The president has enough power; he should back off and let us do what we do."

Specifically, that means he and other lawmakers "have a constitutional obligation to do congressionally directed spending. I know much more about what's needed in Elko, Nevada . . . than some bureaucrat back" in Washington. "Short term, [the president] may win this battle, but it's going to be short term. This is a line he's been flinging out for a long time. It means nothing to [reduce] the debt."

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The Nevada Democrat said banning earmarks doesn't save the cash-strapped government money because the funds will be spent regardless -- earmarks simply direct them.

He also said opposing the president won't cause a rift between himself and a political ally. "He's been around a while, I've been around a while. Just because he's wrong on this doesn't mean he's not right on most everything else. . . . Banning earmarks hurts people who are in need, whether it's a university, a city, a struggling business of some kind. These are the kinds of things that we are obligated to try to help. . . We have three branches of government, and I don't want the executive branch messing with my territory."

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One aspect of earmarks that is not generally known by the public is that they typically do not have the force of law. Subcommittee chairs may insert earmarks in the text of the appropriations bill, but it is more common for them to do so in the committee report on the bill, a procedure that lacks the prerequisites of bicameralism and presentment. The typical process of earmarks bypasses the normal legislative process of public hearings and legislative debate. Many times an earmark has no rational fit and has little to do if anything with the actual appropriations bill. A notable example of earmarks gone wild at the authorization stage was the 2004 Transportation Reauthorization Bill,which contained over 4,000 earmarks, many of which (such as the Blue Ridge Music Center in Virginia and the “Renaissance Square” performing arts center in New York) had little to do with transportation. Administrative agencies are not legally required to pay for projects earmarked in committee reports, they uniformly do so to avoid being punished in the next year’s appropriations process. Most earmarks are "under the table deals" hidden away from an open legislative process. Many cases earmarks are wasted spending and a means for congressmen to payback political supportors, buddies, and lobyists.

February 02 2011 at 10:11 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Harry still doesn't get it

February 02 2011 at 3:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Of course they don't want to give back, or take less, or do anything besides drink as much as they can at the horse trough! Time we rise up like Eygpt and force these lying scoundrals out of office!!!!!!!! Our forefathers highly recommended it for this reason~!~~~~

February 02 2011 at 3:16 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Their excuse that it is only 1B or only 1.5B is just a drop in the bucket, the money has already been appropriated, doesn't hold water. A drop here and a drop there will eventually erode the dam. If the money was already appropriated and is not used, it should be returned to the SS Fund from which it was borrowed.

February 02 2011 at 9:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

typical, Obama finally does something right and the thiefs jump all over and the king thief is upset. Of course he is how else will he pay off all those vote purchased. Yeah lets let them do their job right up until we are broke and a third world company who owes our sole to China. Fire them all it doesnt matter which party they they are all crooks. Time for change only vote for people who havnt held public office.

February 01 2011 at 10:21 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

why in the SAM HILL did ya`ll keep Harry Reid in office. He`s 1 of our bigger problems as a nation united.

February 01 2011 at 3:15 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

reid should retire he's been a fat cat in washington to long.

February 01 2011 at 3:04 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

His territory, that's the problem! Just like his comment about a Senators obligation to barter with his or her vote to get something for their state (ie) Nebraska getting a pardon from additional Medicaid expenses if it voted for Obamacare! Like I said b/4 this guy if not for our country. A bridge to nowhere is idea a useful earmark spending and doesn't add to debt. WRONG!

February 01 2011 at 11:29 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Not a huge fan of Obama but how Reid can defend earmarks is a mystery. Should a senator or representative know more about his neighborhood or state? Absolutely. But when earmarks build beidges to nowhere (yes they do Mr. Reid), or when there is $10M marked for an exit study on I75 in Lee County and no one from Lee county knows why, I think there is a message there. Reid says don't mess with earmarks, the money will be spent anyway he means it. He seems to want to spend a lot of money we don't have on projects we don't need to benefit a few people who have more than enough already.

February 01 2011 at 8:45 AM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

If we could count on Congress in only passing earmarks that were really needed and important instead of the pet projects that only indicate the greed of many of our people and Congress, then earmarks would be okay. If one did an indepth analysis of the earmarks I am sure that most of them indicate the greed and the need for the congressman to get reelected. Harry Reid is wrong.

patrick price

January 29 2011 at 11:56 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to patrickprc's comment

Look earmarks are simply the new "pork". We hire Cabinet officers and bring in experts to these Cabinet departments to make those decisions. It should not be within the realm of Congress to tell the Defense Department, Education Department, Commerce Department, etc. how to use their budget money. Officials in these Departments should be looking at the big picture and spending money based on National priorities--not some local Congressmans pet project. Stop earmarks, its wasteful.

January 29 2011 at 1:03 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

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