The Oklahoman: U.S. House Republicans ban pet projects as they prepare to take over the majority

Nov 19, 2010
In The News

WASHINGTON — House Republicans approved a ban on special projects known as earmarks on Thursday, and incoming freshman James Lankford said it was a good message to send as the GOP prepares to take over the majority in the House.

Lankford, of Edmond, who was elected this month to succeed Republican Mary Fallin in the U.S. House, said the move to prevent lawmakers from requesting money for roads or other projects back in their districts was important, even though earmarks represent only about 1 percent of the budget.

“It’s significant in its message that every dollar counts,” Lankford said, adding that if Americans can’t trust the way 1 percent of the money is spent, lawmakers won’t have any credibility on the other 99 percent.

The unanimous House vote followed a similar move by Senate Republicans on Tuesday. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, is planning to force a full Senate vote on banning the projects.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, said, “Federal spending has gotten completely out of control and has driven this country to historic levels of debt.

“The across-the-board moratorium on earmarks is a first step in the right direction for curing Washington and showing the American people we are serious about curbing spending and decreasing the national debt.”

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, who was critical of the House Republican move to restrict earmarks this year, said Thursday that suspending them “will allow us to focus on bigger debt drivers like entitlement and programmatic spending.”

“Although earmarks account for just about 1 percent of federal spending, there are legitimate concerns about the process, and it’s appropriate to take a step back to address those concerns.”

Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, said Thursday that a Republican ban will effectively mean a House ban next year since the GOP will be in control.

“I think the days of earmarking, at least in the short term, are pretty much over with,” Boren said.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, there were 77 Oklahoma earmarks worth $80 million in the previous fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.

Those earmarks, contained in the annual spending bills, were aimed at a variety of purposes — widening Interstate 35 in Norman, buying buses in Tulsa, funding wheat pasture research at Oklahoma State University, building a water tower in Ada and equipping the Roland Police Department.

Boren and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, requested projects for the state this year, but disputes over how to fund the government for the next several months may scuttle all of the earmark requests.

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