Jim Inhofe Earmark Update Direct from Washington Office: Padding Obama’s Stash

I have an update to this morning’s post on Senator Jim Inhofe’s possible support of the Republican earmark moratorium, with information coming directly from Inhofe’s Washington, D.C. office. How do you feel about padding Obama’s Stash? Read on and see excellent videos below.

Jim Inhofe and Al Gore

(The pic above is off-topic but is one of my favorites. It shows the strength and principle of this no-nonsense senator, who refuses to let the propaganda from a former U.S. Vice President, a high-profile liar and a disgraced Nobel Prize winner, go unchallenged in the halls of Congress.

I spoke with an Inhofe aide by phone today, after posting this morning. I had several questions:

1) Inhofe says if the Senate gives up earmarks, they essentially cede their “constitutional power of the purse” directly to the the President. How does this happen?

ANSWER: There are different “buckets” of funds, for example: The Department of Defense, The Department of Health and Human Services, and many others. Because Congress approves very large bills with earmarks attached, they write what amounts to a blank check, which “unelected bureaucrats” then spend at their discretion.

MAGGIE: Obviously, the department heads are powerful, and “unelected.” There is every reason to believe they do the President’s bidding. If there are no earmarks, the President still asks for a certain amount of money. If some of that money is not earmarked, it still ends up in the hands of Cabinet and Department heads. See the first video below, and also hear an interesting conversation about Bush’s deficit..

From Inhofe’s article in the National Review Online The Corner:

…in 2009 the Senate performed the rare action of considering many appropriations bills individually rather than irresponsibly lumping them all into one large bill to consider at the end of the year. The value of considering these bills individually is that it gives senators the opportunity to exercise some oversight of government programs and to monitor how federal departments spend money. Senators could offer amendments to both cut spending and strike particular earmarks if they desired. From July to November that year, there were about 18 votes specifically targeting earmarks. All the amendments failed. But had they succeeded, they would not have reduced the overall amount of money being spent by the federal government. Instead of putting the money back into the pockets of the American people by reducing spending or shrinking the deficit, these efforts to eliminate earmarks would have put more money into the hand of President Obama by allowing his administration to spend the money as he saw fit. At the end of the day, none would have saved money.

…senators offered amendments to strike funding for C-17 airplanes or other specific military spending and return the money to the Department of Defense’s operation-and-maintenance account. In another case, members offered amendments to strike funding out of a program called “Save America’s Treasures” for specific art centers throughout the United States, but the money was simply shifted to allow bureaucrats at the National Park Service to spend it. In another case, a member offered an amendment to strike a variety of transportation projects in many states, only to redirect the spending to bureaucrats in the Federal Aviation Administration. I could go on and on.

2) Does earmark legislation ever come to the Senate Floor without passing through the Authorizations Committee and then the Appropriations Committee?

ANSWER: Yes, it occasionally does.

MAGGIE: Doesn’t this drive you crazy? Why is this allowed to happen? Who can stop it?

3) What is the answer to irresponsible earmarks?

ANSWER: Inhofe’s HELP Act [Honest Expenditure Limitation Program] now pending in the Senate utilizes the recommendations of several groups studying earmarks. This Act, according to Inhofe’s office, will cut spending back to 2008 levels, with no fake and/or feel-good accounting.

From the summary S.3095 HELP Act introduced on March 9th, 2010:

Amends the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to make it out of order in the House of Representatives or the Senate to consider any bill, joint resolution, amendment, or conference report that includes any provision that would exceed specified non-security discretionary spending limits for FY2011-FY2020.

Defines “non-security discretionary spending” as discretionary spending other than spending for the Department of Defense (DOD), homeland security activities, intelligence-related activities within the Department of State, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and national security related activities in the Department of Energy (DOE).

Requires the President to issue a sequestration order, effective on issuance, if the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in its Final Discretionary Sequestration Report estimates that any sequestration is required….

The Left hates Jim Inhofe about as intensely as we dislike Nancy Pelosi. Knowing this, listen in the second video below from the floor of the Senate last night, where Inhofe gives a bit of his history as a Congressman and Senator, and the battles he has fought…alone, for balanced budget legislation.

In the second video:

1) He gets to earmarks at about 10 minutes-in, and it morphs into the HELP Act, and the change in direction he may take after Mitch McConnell’s statement yesterday.

2) At about 18 minutes in, Inhofe discusses what happens when the President’s budget gets to the Senate, after they either change it and approve it or approve it without changes.

3) At about 22 minutes-in, and then moving into the third video, which you can view here,  he explains the Inhofe Factor. In Oklahoma each family that files a tax return, owes $5,683. Inhofe’s earmarks for the past year were about $80 million, most of them military things. The $80 million would cost each family in Oklahoma 40 cents. I get the point. He further says that all the earmarks passed are one one-hundreth of the big spending bills recently passed.

At about 3 to 4 minutes-in Inhofe talks about Senator Jim DeMint and how they have worked together.

At about 9 minutes-in he talks about earmarks being authorized individually, and how the money went back to the Executive Branch to be redirected to unelected bureaucrats. None saved a dime because it went straight to the Oval for redistribution.

At about 12 minutes in, he talks about eight great American groups who have studied earmarks (Citizens Against Government Waste among them) and their five principals of earmark reform. The following is their recommendation:

“To cut the chord between earmarks and campaign contributions, Congress should limit earmarks to campaign contributors, limiting total contributions from the earmark beneficiary and its affiliates to no more than $5,000.00 would help restore the confidence.”

Inhofe says his HELP Act does exactly that.

Whatever Inhofe, as well as Senate leaders decide to do, earmarking should and must be clearly understood by conservative voters. None of us will be happy padding Obama’s stash.

Jim Inhofe on HELP Act

Senator Inhofe on the Senate Floor Monday, November 15th, 2010

Thanks to Doug Ross and Larwyn!