Accessibility links

Senators Debate Merits of Earmarks in Spending Bill


On Friday, the U.S. Senate shelved a final vote on the $410 billion spending bill that would fund the federal government through the current fiscal year. Senators from both parties have expressed reservations over the more than 8,000 localized spending projects, called earmarks, which total more than $7 billion.

Congress will continue debate Monday over the federal spending bill, which a handful of Republicans and Democrats are criticizing for being loaded down with earmarks, or special projects legislators use to funnel money to their constituents.

Congress did not pass the legislation last year under threat of a veto from then-President George Bush. Now some question whether President Barack Obama is breaking his campaign pledge to scour the budget line by line for wasteful spending.

Republican Senator John McCain, who is well known for deriding earmarks as "pork barrel spending," told Fox News the president should scrap the bill entirely.

"But the fact is, they are unneeded, unwanted, unnecessary and it is not last year's business," said John McCain. "It is money that is going to be spent as soon as the president signs the bill, and he should not sign it, he should veto it and send it right back."

McCain acknowledges that earmark spending is a bipartisan problem; about 40 percent of the earmarks came from fellow Republicans. One such Republican is Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama who says the inclusion of earmarks should not impede funding the government.

"A lot of people voted for a stimulus bill, a TARP [Troubled Assets Relief Program], that is $1.5 trillion," said Richard Shelby. "Now they say, 'Oh, we better not vote for a $400-billion bill to fund the government.' I think we ought to fund the government and move on."

Another Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham, who inserted 37 earmarks for South Carolina, defended the process for funneling revenue to his home state.

"I think I should have the ability as a United States Senator to direct money back to my state as long it is transparent and it makes sense," said Lindsey Graham.

In total, earmarks represent less than two percent of the federal spending bill. Graham and other senators say they expect the bill to pass later this week.

XS
SM
MD
LG