Ending Earmarks: An Important Step Toward Budgetary Reform
Last week, I announced my support for a moratorium on earmarks as a first step to putting the government's fiscal house in order. Colorado families have been tightening their belts throughout this economic downturn and it is time Congress did the same.
In addition to renouncing earmarks requests, I am working to end the process so Congress can focus on putting Americans back to work. I explained the reasoning behind my decision to ban earmarks and help reduce the national debt in a Greeley Tribune op-ed.
Colorado newspapers' reaction to my announcement has been overwhelmingly positive. The Pueblo Chieftain editorialized:
Sen. Udall joined in taking the "no earmarks" pledge, indicating he'd heard the voters' anger over the spendthrift ways of Washington. We hope others of his Democratic colleagues will join him in that pledge.
But I'm under no illusion that this is going to be easy. Some earmarks finance worthy causes, but they are also a corrupting influence on the legislative process. Members of Congress become so focused on protecting their own pet projects that they feel pressured to remain silent about the irresponsible spending habits of their colleagues. The Denver Post wrote, "hopefully, eliminating earmarks would erase a scenario where members of Congress have a personal motivation to see larger and larger appropriation bills, as members trade votes and favors."
I also know that eliminating earmarks, which accounted for less than one percent of the federal budget last year, will not solve our nation's budget woes, but the first step - however small - is still important. The Boulder Daily Camera articulated the value of rejecting earmarks well:
When Americans are fed up with the system, its lack of transparency, and waste, addressing the system itself is completely appropriate. If your household budget were a disaster and you couldn't afford your mortgage, cutting out your daily Starbucks latte wouldn't have an enormous impact. But you'd do it anyway.
Especially if your household latte budget was always up for grabs, with every member of your household, your extended family, your neighbors and your entire church congregation vying for coffee every time you made payment, or a new family purchase.
By weaning Congress off the one percent of spending that goes into earmarks, members will be freed from the pressure to support continually ratcheted-up spending bills and can begin to focus on holding the government accountable for the other 99 percent of spending that agencies and departments receive. I hope this important step also kick-starts a larger groundswell of support for reforming the way Washington spends money, and look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans alike to get our nation's deficit under control.
READ MORE about my position on fiscal responsibility.