Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who was rated by National Journal as the most conservative senator in 2009, is pushing back against the House Republicans’ earmarks moratorium and a similar effort in the Senate. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed (available only to subscribers), Inhofe maintained the moratorium won’t save any money:
Why? Because instead of reducing the federal budget, it will empower Obama administration bureaucrats to spend the funds members of Congress would have sent home through earmarks. Also, last year’s earmarks accounted for 1.5% of discretionary spending. Where’s the focus on the other 98.5%? Earmarks are nothing more than a distraction from the real spending and debt crisis facing our nation.
Instead Inhofe has Honest Expenditure Limitation (HELP) Act. “Instead of locking in the president’s 20% spending increase, my plan reduces nonsecurity discretionary spending over a five-year period,” he writes. “Once it reaches the 2008 spending level, my bill then freezes spending there for an additional five years.” But Inhofe is adamant that the anti-earmarks crusade is going to throw out Congress’ legitimate constitutional perogatives out with the wasteful spending.
“Under Article I, Section 9 it is our [Congress’] responsibility to do the authorizing and the appropriating,” Inhofe told TAS in a telephone interview. “If we eliminate that, the Democrats are the big beneficiary. That money will be shifted to their Democratic president.” Inhofe argues that the issue won’t affect spending levels but rather who disburses the spending — Congress, as the Founding Fathers intended, or the president and his bureaucrats.
Inhofe acknowledges that his position is unpopular among rank-and-file conservatives, but alludes to his role as a leading global warming skeptic in saying that he’s willing to take on causes that are initially unpopular. He believes that Republicans should avoid this “distraction.” “On the four biggest issues where the American people are on our side — the deficit, government takeover of health care, cap and trade, and Gitmo — Republicans are clearly on the right side,” he says. “Why then do we want to waste our time with a phony issue like this?”
I’ll have more to say about this later.