Jim Inhofe on Earmarks: Important Conversations – No Earmark Means the Money Goes to Obama, No Exceptions

Senator Jim Inhofe is up for re-election this year, and he has a Democrat challenger. I don’t know if the “challenger” is talking about “earmarks,” but I suspect he is, and so in a column in the Tulsa World, Inhofe writes about his position on earmarks — something I have followed closely. He believes in earmarks, I believe he is right. Earmarks are not always what you think they are.

Jim Inhofe

Jim Inhofe

INHOFE: What I warned America in late 2010 is proving true today: Eliminating earmarks has not saved taxpayers one dime. Instead our debt has increased by $4 trillion, and Congress is giving specified amounts of taxpayer dollars to the president so that he can spend it as he and his unelected bureaucrats so please.

Republicans’ decision to cede power to the president through the earmark moratorium has made Congress less accountable, less transparent, and less responsible to its constituents… Source: Tulsa World, May 17, 2014

In March 2010, blogger Jim Hoft, at Gateway Pundit spoke to Senator Inhofe by phone. Here’s a snippet:

If you stop an earmark it doesn’t save one penney. All it does is take that money and gives it to the President of the United States. That’s the way the system works. It goes to the executive branch.

So to be clear about that, when an earmark does not become an earmark (sent back to a state), the money is still spent — it goes to the Executive Branch and the president doles it out to unelected bureaucrats at his discretion. Killing an earmark is not saving money, it is simply GIVING taxpayer dollars to unelected department heads or agencies. It’s a win-win for bureaucrats and a 100 percent loss to We The People, unless you are concerned about pollinization habits of female cactus buds or testing shrimp on a treadmill.

In November 2010 The Hill wrote about Inhofe’s stance on earmarks:

He also introduced a bill to limit earmarks that are sent to congressional campaign donors, prohibit legislative staffers from participating in fundraising, create a database of congressional earmarks, require random earmark audits by the Government Accountability Office and require earmark recipients to be certified as qualified for the corresponding project.

“It would be nothing short of criminal to go through the trouble of electing great new anti-establishment conservatives, only to have them cede to President Obama their constitutional power of the purse — which is exactly what would happen with a moratorium on earmarks,” Inhofe said.

In the second video  viewed here, Senator Inhofe speaks with Fox News’ Rick Folbaum in November 2010 (1:09 mins-in and other snippets):

INHOFE: So many people are all wrapped up in this thing about earmarks. You gotta keep in mind, and here I am, I was rated last week as the most conservative member of the United States Senate, and I’m here to tell you that earmarks don’t save a penny. All you do if you kill an earmark or appropriation, is send that money to the White House…

In the video, Folbaum quotes John McCain:

FOLBAUM: One of your colleagues in the Senate, John McCain, said “you’ve got to define earmarks, and that is an unauthorized appropriation. He says if you authorize it, even if you disagree with it, that’s the right process, but what earmarks have done is totally circumvent what we should be doing and that is authorizing and then appropriating.”

INHOFE: I heard that because that’s my definition, not Senator McCain’s and I’m glad he has finally caught on. They are always talking about authorizing and appropriating.

Those are two processes. I’m on an authorization committee. If you authorize it first, that means it has gone through the vetting process, things like platforms for our military, and all that, and then you appropriate it, but if you go down to the floor and they are appropriating something that has not been authorized, that’s where they’re swapping out the deal…

It’s very important to understand that when you eliminate an earmark, it doesn’t save a penny, it just sends that to the executive — that’s the president of the United States. That’s why so many Democrats are now wanting to jump on this thing, eliminating earmarks. That will do nothing but send that money to the president…

We went through this in 2007 when we only passed two out of 12 appropriation bills. That caused it to go into — all that money went in to the president — that was George Bush at that time — 100 percent of that money, that year went to the five largest cities in America, so if you eliminate an earmark, it doesn’t save a cent, it merely send that to the president.

It’s likely that one of those five cities was not your city. It certainly wasn’t mine…

INHOFE: Our Constitutional responsibility under Article I, Section 9 is Congress, the Senate and the House, are supposed to be doing the authorizing and appropriating. Now if you say you want to eliminate earmarks, that means that we cede that authority to the president…

I’m for a lot of the EDA programs, we need to do something about infrastructure — I’m the one who put the amendment on the Stimulus Bill, the first one that came along — to try to do something about using that money to build roads and bridges and highways — put people to work. This president used it for social engineering…that doesn’t stimulate anything.

I’m sure you caught the fact that members of Congress are allowed to take an earmark to the floor and get it appropriated without being authorized. That shouldn’t happen, and that when there are no earmarks by Congress, the MONEY IS SPENT ANYWAY by the Executive Branch.

In November 2010 I posted twice on Senator Inhofe and earmarks:

On November 16, 2010 I spoke to one of Inhofe’s aides:

I asked:  

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?

He answered:

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.

In 2011, Inhofe introduce the HELP Act (Honest Expendiutre Limitation Program) to restrict how earmarks are authorized, and to restrict such things as the Bridge to Nowhere, and keep earmarks actually helping communities receiving benefits from its own tax money. What is not to like about that? The bill had 19 co-sponsors in the Democrat-held Senate and died in the Budget Committee.

Here is what the HELP Act would have done (source):

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….

In the first video viewed here (November 2010):

INHOFE: …so I’d say that earmarks are hardly a gateway drug, a symptom of federal spending run amuck or even underlying cause to our fiscal problems, but why? Because we have shed light on earmarks. Let us add why shining light can be the first stop.

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.

…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. ~ Senator Jim Inhofe

At 18:35 minutes into the video linked above (or here):

INHOFE: We go one step further. It demands, now listen to this, Mr. President, this demands the same transparency to Obama bureaucratic earmarks as it does to Senatorial earmarks…if we do that, I’ll read in Section 5, not later than July 1st, 2011, the head of each department agency of the federal government shall post on a public website, of each department of government or agency, a link to a searchable database, that lists each contract, grant, co-operative agreement and other expenditure made [by that department or agency], the amount, purpose, term and office making such expenditure.

Well now, why is that necessary? Sean Hannity, about six months ago, came out with a series one night where he talked about the 102 most egregious earmarks that were brought up…I was so excited when I saw these, read them all, came down, stood right here on the Senate floor and I read all, and described all…[he puts up a list of the earmarks]

$3.4M to construct an eco-passage for turtles, $450,000 to build 22 concrete toilets in the Mark Twain National Forest, $300,000 for a helicopter equipment to detect radioactive rabbit droppings, $500,000 for a grant to a researcher named in the climate-gate scandal, $325,000 to study the mating decisions of female cactus buds.

I said after reading all 102, here’s just five of them, I asked what do all of these have in common? What they have in common is that not one of them is a congressional earmark. They were all, all earmarks that were put in there by the Obama administration.

Here’s the problem, if you ban congressional earmarks, you’re going to have more of this [the list from Sean Hannity] because as you restrict what Congress, that same amount of money goes back into the administration, whether it’s the Department of Interior, the Corps of Engineers, the EPA or any of the rest of them…

So yes, I repeated the same facts over and over because we MUST understand that Barack Obama buys the Obama phones with money that could be coming home to you the taxpayer.

In the Tulsa World article I started with, he explains the earmarks he has brought home to my city of Tulsa and I can vouch for the worthiness of how this money went to work for the people, including people traveling through the Great State of Oklahoma.

I was proud to put my name next to two earmark measures that brought Oklahomans’ taxpayer dollars back to the state in order to improve our highways and give more opportunity for our roads and bridges to remain major players in our nation’s commerce.

Prior to 2005, Interstate 40 Crosstown was being routed through Oklahoma City via a functionally obsolete bridge that was fracture-critical, meaning it was at critical risk of collapsing. There were several places that I could physically see through cracks in the asphalt to the ground below.

Through the earmark process, Congress authorized nearly half of the money needed to get the reconstruction projects started. During the same year, Congress also authorized half of the needed funding to support modernizations to Interstate 44, which crossed Tulsa with a highway design that pre-dated the interstate system.

As Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley has said, both interstates were massively deficient from a capacity, safety, and conditional perspective. The state had the ability to meet roughly half of the funding needs, but federal earmarks allowed these critical projects to begin decades earlier and be completed more quickly than would have been possible through local government effort alone.

Inhofe ended with this:

Our Founding Fathers foresaw taxpayer dollars being used to build a strong national security and support the nation’s commerce. They also believed these spending measures were to be prioritized by Congress, which is why James Madison outlined in the Federalist Papers that Congress was to hold the power of the purse in order to keep the power closer to the people.

We The People must find a way to pressure Congress to do it right, to authorize spending and then appropriate spending. Senator Inhofe’s HELP Act got nowhere under Democrats. We can change that in November 2014 by going to the polls and voting our conservative principles.

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  • Jimmie

    What I hear the Senator saying, Maggie, is that he’s more interested in controlling who spends the 100 bazillion dollars each year than he is in spending less than 100 bazillion dollars. Does that seem about right?

    • Hi Jimmie, I don’t think so. I think he tried to get back to authorizing and appropriating. He wanted all spending to be done congressionally and responsibly. Some of the tax money is supposed to go back to the states, but if not, it surely should not go where it’s going. He’s talking about 1.2% of spending – a bunch for sure. He just wants it done through the authorization and appropriations process.

      The fact that every budget is increased every year, and every department finds a way to spend it all, so that more comes the next year is obscene.

      • Jimmie

        Right. I don’t get the sense at all that he’s angry that we’re spending way more than we can afford and that we will spend more next year nor the year after that. He’s angry that he can’t control where all that money goes.

        • Jimmie, this post was not about spending, other than earmarks, but Inhofe’s record on spending since he entered congress, has been fiscally sound. There are a few votes I take issue with, but in general, he is for smaller government and has been routinely recognized for fiscal sanity since he went to the Hill. I will not argue that for decades before Obama, the spending bills were out of control, but he has supported balanced budget acts in the past and cast many votes against irresponsible spending, and the government sticking it’s nose where it doesn’t belong. I receive his statements about overspending, the deficit regularly and, yes, I’ve heard him say we’re spending too much, many times.

          If you are saying that Inhofe is angry about earmark money that he “can’t control,” why shouldn’t he be angry?

          • Jimmie

            I need to check Google to see where Senator Imhofe co-sponsored a budget that cut spending by, say, a meager 5 percent. I don’t believe I’ll find it, but I could be wrong.

            Until then, Imhofe is as large a part of the problem as anyone and he can leave just like the others.

            He *should* be angry that 1) Congress hasn’t been able to pass more than a budget bill or two in the past several years; 2) that when it has, the bills were “omnibus” bills instead of a far more responsible set of bills where Congress could debate the merits of spending colossal sums on individual departments; and 3) his compatriots would rather argue about whether they or the President get to spend several million of our childrens’ dollars on a chicken museum or some other piece of campaign-donor payback instead of arguing whether they should spend the money at all.

            • Jimmie, Inhofe does have GOP challengers. I’m okay with him “going” if we have good candidates. I believe in term-limits. Inhofe is not on any of the budgetary committees but he has sponsored and co-sponsored numerous bills to amend tax laws. He supports everything a Republican should support. There is no one stronger on the military, no one stronger on energy, no one clearer on the EPA and global warming. He is farther right than any other Senator, including Coburn. You’re from Maryland. We have no Cardins, Milkulskis or Hoyers in Oklahoma. Most of the time we get it right. Most of the time, Inhofe is in the top five, if not at No. one of fiscal responsibility.

              Having said all that, I do believe in term-limits.

              • Jimmie

                If he believes in a smaller budget every year, and has put action to his beliefs, then he’s right.

                What I get from his comments isn’t that.

                • I just saw this Jimmie. Answered the other one first.

                  Over the last five years, the President has repeatedly chosen to ignore the facts. Not once during his time in office has the President put forward a budget that proposes any meaningful reform to entitlement spending. Instead, he’s consistently demonstrated that politics takes priority over getting our fiscal house in order, and far too often, it’s our military men and women who are paying the price.

                  This year’s budget is no different. In fact, the so called “Opportunities, Growth and Security initiative” continues this troubling trend. March 2014

                  After his no vote on a “no strings attached debt limit increase:

                  “Fiscal responsibility is the foundation of prosperity, and today’s vote on the debt ceiling was fiscal negligence,” said Inhofe. “As we’ve done before, Congress’ response to approaching the debt ceiling should be to debate and enforce policies that help put our country on the path toward a balanced budget. Instead, this vote gave the President a clean pass to continue on the destructive trajectory of big government spending. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to put forward responsible solutions and enact legislation that limits the size of government and encourages long-term economic growth.” Feb 2014

                  From his website: At a time when government spending has run amuck in Washington, Jim has fought for common sense Oklahoma values of less spending and a more limited government. He fought against the $700 billion TARP bailout, the $787 billion so-called stimulus bill, and other government bailouts. Jim is a reform-minded leader, and he has actively sought to reduce government spending. For decades, he has been a proponent of a Balanced Budget Amendment

                  That’s just a couple of them. Once-upon-a-time, I save them but finally had to dump that folder.

                  BTW, he’s a bear on government regulations.

                  Have you ever noticed that you seldom see remarks on an issue unless the person remarking sits on a specific or related committee?

              • Jimmie

                Here’s the thing, Maggie, I’m out of patience with Republicans in Congress. Whether they’re in the majority or minority, government has grown bigger and more powerful and spent money that no sane person would spend if they money they’re spending actually belonged to them. Jim Inhofe may be an awesome conservative, but he’s not made things better. He’s exerted no influence, put no political capital at state, founded no bloc of small-government Senators.

                His railing about earmarks is small, far too small for the very large problems that face us right now, and focused only on his power and influence as a United States Senator. I don’t care if earmarks ever come back. I don’t care if Inhofe or anyone else can bring pork back home to feed his campaign contributors. If he doesn’t want Barack Obama to spend that money, then he needs to fight until he broken and bleeding to spend less money.

                • Jimmie, you are not the only one out of patience. I’m with you on being out of patience, and most everything you are saying here, that’s why I support term limits. I supported Oklahoma’s Jim Bridenstine, and minutes after he was sworn in, he went to the House Floor and voted against Boehner for Speaker.

                  I picked the subject of earmarks. Inhofe was not “railing” about it. It was one small part of a column he wrote for a local paper because of major highway work in Tulsa and OKC, of which Oklahomans paid half of. We would have gotten it done without the “government’s help” eventually, but the money came here for highways. It didn’t go to the Executive Branch, or a bridge to nowhere. It didn’t build concrete bathrooms in a National Park. It build highways you might travel on.

                  Once again, Inhofe tried to change the system. Authorizations and Appropriations IS MY interest. It wasn’t his major interest. I dug into my files and wrote again about the process of authorization and appropriation, which has a place in government and is not being used.

                  A couple of years ago it was his issue, because of the moratorium, but I believe in the end, he voted for it. Really doesn’t matter, because it was voluntary anyway.

                  As far as a small bloc of senators, he worked with Rubio, Lee, Cruz and Paul on blocking gun control. He was on the floor during one of the filibusters. He works with them routinely. He has voted against debt limit extensions, against continuing appropriations, he has begun voting against the NDAA and is always in the right place on border security. He was the lead on Cap and Trade and has been a loud voice of sanity on global warming, and the loudest voice on the pipeline and all things oil and gas.

                  It is your opinion that Inhofe hasn’t used any political capital to make things better. I disagree with you. He has put unpopular stances on the line for years, been ridiculed for it over and over. He doesn’t care.

                  Every vote, no matter the state, affects my family and yours. Oklahoma legislators usually get it right.

                  There has been no budget. The Senate will never have a responsible budget, no matter who authors or co-sponsors the bill until leadership changes.

                  I’m sick of the spending too.

  • Samuel Madison

    ummm, ever think of actually cutting spending you frickin dinosaur?

  • Guest

    Earmarks are used by the politicians as bribes for votes. Earmarks are also doled out to those who grease the politicians palms with cold hard cash.

    The whole system is corrupt to the core.

    62% of labor departments international grants are missing documentation.


    This money is used to support labor around the world.

    Acorn anybody ?

    The state dept was missing 5 billion dollars.

    Where did that go ?

    Acorn ? Money to buy votes ?

    Nobody..nobody is talking about the insolvency of the debt.

    Everyone in Washington is all about give me..give me…spend..spend ..spend.

    There is no accountability and money flows in Washington.

    • Guest, I agree with everything you said, and none of it is authorized or appropriated. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

  • Jeff Edelman

    If the appropriations were cut in half in the House of Representatives, then all this talk of earmarks would be pointless. Give each agency/administration a budget of half the amount of this year. Then the heads can decide the most critical priorities — like buying bullets or funding studies. Therein lies the problem. No one wants to establish the critical priorities. What we need Inhofe to do is fight for the elimination of these unconstitutional agencies/administrations/departments. I think we can see now why the Founding Fathers didn’t include these liberty killers in the Constitution.

    • Jeff Edelman, you’re so right. The problem is, there is money Congress & the White can see. That money is available to them. It needs to stop.

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