Today in Washington - November 18, 2010

Earmark reform hits phase two this week.  Now that House and Senate Republicans have promised not to earmark, the fight goes to the House and Senate Floor.  Expect votes in both the House and Senate over the next few months to ban the corrupting and wasteful practice of earmarking for the whole Congress.


Today, The House is voting on Senate amendments to a telecommuting bill for federal workers and an extension to unemployment benefits.  The House has four votes scheduled on the Suspension Calendar and will continue work on the ethics case against Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY).  The Senate is debating a motion to proceed to S.510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.  

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has expressed his intent to offer a Senate wide earmark ban on the Food Safety bill.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has pledged to block regular consideration of the Coburn Amendment.  Senator Coburn has filed a notice to suspend the rules of the Senate, this motion requires 67 votes, to force a vote on the issue early next week.

Senator Coburn has been joined by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John McCain (R-AZ) and Mark Udall (D-CO) in a bipartisan effort to create a Senate wide ban on earmarking.  Amendment number 4697 creates a point of order against earmarks, limited tax benefits or tariffs:

It shall not be in order to — consider a bill or joint resolution reported by any committee or a bill or joint resolution reported by any committee with a report that includes an earmark, limited tax benefit, or limited tariff benefit.

The new rule also makes it out of order for the Senate to consider:


A Senate bill or joint resolution not reported by committee that includes an earmark, limited tax benefit, or limited tariff benefit.

People always ask “what is an earmark” and this rules change provides a definition of the term:

The term “earmark” means a provision or report language included primarily at the request of a Senator or Member of the House of Representatives providing, authorizing, or recommending a specific amount of discretionary budget authority, credit authority, or other spending authority for a contract, loan, loan guarantee, grant, loan authority, or other expenditure with or to an entity, or targeted to a specific State, locality or Congressional district, other than through a statutory or administrative formula-driven or competitive award process.

Expect a vote next week on this measure.  This is the first test for all Senators to see if they are listening to the American people.



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