Senator Claire McCaskill (D) posted a link via Twitter to a video of remarks she made on the floor of the Senate critical of the earmarking process:
The date on the video is September 23, 2009.
….The amendment that I’ll be offering speaks to what I see as a very fundamentally flawed process in our appropriations in Congress. I am, uh, not in the majority in this body as it relates to the subject of earmarks. I realize that I am, um, one of very few in my party and a few more, but not a whole lot, on the other side of the aisle that don’t participate in the earmarking process. My amendment is calling into attention, I hope, how this process is flawed. And why we need to change the process.
There are two, there are many problems with the process, but two of ’em I’m gonna speak briefly about today. One is, the process is fundamentally unfair. Um, it’s, it’s rather mysterious, uh, how much money gets set aside for earmarks and who does it and where it happens. It’s even more mysterious as to how the decision is made as to how the earmarks are distributed among the members. Uh, I would point out that in looking at the appropriations bills that we’ve handled so far it’s very clear that the process is heavily weighted towards the members that serve as appropriators. I get that. Um, that’s part of the culture that has grown up around earmarking. That is, is if you’re an appropriator you’re entitled to get more. I’m not sure that’s a good way to spend public money. But I think it’s important to point out that that is the process. Um, fifty percent of the earmarks in this bill, of all the earmarks in this bill, are going to the members of the committee. Last week it was even more egregious. I don’t think most members realize that when we voted on the Transportation, uh, the T-HUD bill last week, the Transportation the Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill last week, in the transportation part of the bill there was one point six billion in earmarks. Over fifty percent of that money went to four members, four states. So, out of fifty states four states got more than half of all the money. Well when I tell that to people in Missouri they go, “Huh, how does that happen? How can that happen?” And I frankly don’t have a very good answer for ’em.
The other par…, problem I’d like to call to the attention of my colleagues today is not just the process as it relates to how earmarks are distributed, but what we, where these earmarks come from. This money is not growing on a secret tree somewhere that we’re harvesting. Uh, it is, they’re coming out of programs. They’re coming out of budgets. And one of the things that I’ve found most troubling is that many of these earmarks are coming out of competitive grant programs or formula grant programs. ….
….Taking money out of a formula fund to earmark takes it from a predictable process based on merit to a very unpredictable process based on who ya are. The same thing with competitive grant programs.
The amendment that I will offer, uh, basically wipes out the earmarks in one of these competitive grant programs. The program I’m referring to is a great program. It’s called “Save America’s Treasures”.
Half of the money this year will be earmarked. Leaving only ten million for a competitive program. So if your state doesn’t get an earmark, either in the House or in the Senate, in the bill then the chances of your state getting any money out of this program have been cut in half. It’s only ten million dollars for the whole country for these grants which are to restore America’s treasures, historic treasures, across the country. That, that, that’s a problem.
The hijacking of public money for earmarking from the competitive grant bus is going on everywhere. Um, and let me give you another couple of examples. Last week when we did the Transportation Housing Urban Development appropriation there were two good examples. They are, uh, programs that began to provide competition to valued programs across the country. The first one, is the Neighborhood Initiative. And that is at, at HUD, the Housing and Urban Development department. In nineteen ninety-eight Congress created this program.
There were no earmarks in the program at all in nineteen ninety-nine. None. After Congress created the program. So, beginning in two thousand and one, however, every dime in this program, under the Neighborhood Initiatives Program, has gone to earmarks. Once again, a competitive merit process morphs over into a completely earmarked process.
I just think that compet…, competition is a good thing. And this isn’t about a bureaucrat somewhere sprinkling fairy dust and supplementing their judgment for the judgment of Congress. In fact the examples that I have given are programs that were designed to be competitive, and in two of the three instances, they were designed to be competitive by Congress itself. And then somehow they have morphed over into a pecking order of priorities based on someone’s seniority or the committee they serve on or even if they’re in some political trouble. It seems like to me a goofy way to spend money, especially the public’s money….
“…I just think that compet…, competition is a good thing….”
It’d be really nice if that also applied to health care reform, don’t you think?