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One of the big issues that is currently before Congress is earmark reform. An earmark occurs when a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate specifies how a certain amount of money in an agency?s budget is to be spent, most often in the member?s own district or state. In the past, a few of these earmarks had been entered in a conference report and were never included in the floor discussions of the bills. I believe that the earmark process should be open, that all earmarks should be noted as to which member made the request and that the entire body should have the opportunity to consider them in the normal budgeting and expenditure process.
However, when the House was given the opportunity to stand for earmark reform, the leadership rejected our effort and forced a vote in support of the status quo.
The House was preparing to take a final vote on a bill when Republicans sought to defeat the ?previous question,? which would have changed the issue being considered by the House. A ?No? vote was in favor of the House taking up earmark reform. The stated objective in a letter to the Speaker was to have the House address what I, and many of my colleagues, see as wasteful spending in Washington. Our proposal was to create a Joint Committee on Earmark Reform to conduct a full study of the earmark practices of the House, Senate and Executive Branch. Upon completion of this study, the Joint Committee would file a report of its findings and recommendations. Until the report is filed, the House would put in place an immediate moratorium on the consideration of all earmarks. This attempt was defeated when the previous question failed 204-to-196, with a ?No? vote being in support of earmark reform.
In spite of the rejection of our effort to act now to reform the earmark process, the Republican members of the House have established a series of earmark reform standards. One of those standards is that lawmakers should not have money appropriated to construct monuments to themselves. Another says that no earmarks should be inserted into a bill at the last minute; instead, they can only be considered in the regular appropriations process and be transparent for all to see. Further, members of Congress who request earmarks should state a plan detailing exactly how the money will be spent and why they believe that the use of taxpayer funding is justified.
In light of the House?s failure to stand foursquare for earmark reform, Republicans in the House have launched a website dedicated solely to reforming how Washington spends taxpayer dollars. The website, http://earmarkreform.house.gov, serves as a hub for news and information regarding efforts to hold the House majority to its promises to fundamentally overhaul the taxpayer-funded earmark system.
I support efforts to press the issue of earmark reform. It is my hope that such efforts will lead to a reduction in federal spending.
Please keep in touch with me on issues that are important to you. You may write Congressman Virgil Goode, 70 East Court Street, Room 215, Rocky Mount, VA 24151; or fax to 1-540-484-1459; or call toll-free to the Danville office, 1-800-535-4008.