Thursday, November 18, 2010

Deficit reduction theater

On Tuesday, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a champion earmarker, bowed to pressure from Tea Party activists and agreed to a voluntary ban. But at least in budgetary terms, this is much less of a victory than it may seem. Earmarks account for only about $16 billion a year, or less than one half of 1 percent of the federal budget. Banning them would not lower spending or cut the deficit, since, contrary to popular perception, the money would not be returned to the Treasury but would simply revert to the Appropriations Committee to be spent elsewhere. To make a real dent in federal spending, the appropriations process itself would need reform, and that’s not currently on the table.
--Joshua Green, Boston Globe, on why earmarks are a rounding error

A band of conservative rebels has taken over the House, vowing to slash spending, cut the deficit and kill earmarks.

And of course they’d love a seat on the powerhouse Appropriations Committee so they can translate their campaign zeal into action, right?

Not really.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was asked to be an appropriator and said thanks, but no thanks. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a tea party favorite, turned down a shot at Appropriations, which controls all discretionary spending. So did conservatives like Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), an ambitious newcomer who will lead the influential Republican Study Committee. ...

The difficulty that GOP leaders have faced in recruiting Appropriations Committee members is a stunning reversal from the panel’s storied history, when members of both parties aggressively competed for committee slots as a way to increase their House influence.
--Simmi Aujla and Richard Cohen, Politico, on the gap between campaign rhetoric and official action

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