Friday, September 12, 2008

McCain Said "Thanks, But No Thanks" to Cooperation with Obama on Earmarks Reform

Sen. McCain has been saying over and over again since his convention that one of his goals as president would be to stamp out earmarks. Day after day on the stump, he echoes one of the big applause-getters from his acceptance speech:

"And you will know their names. You will know their names!"

"I've fought the big spenders in both parties, who waste your money on things you neither need nor want, and the first big-spending pork-barrel earmark bill that comes across my desk, I will veto it. I will make them famous, and you will know their names. You will know their names!"

I'm sure Americans who hate the idea of their money going to wasteful spending absolutely went through the roof at that line, screaming, "Oh frabjous day, calloo, callay!" (Apologies to Lewis Carroll.) The Republican delegates exploded when McCain delivered the line at the convention, and the GOP faithful throughout the country have thrilled each time they've heard it since.

There's a problem with McCain's promise -- and I'm not even going to mention that his running mate has enjoyed more earmark dollars per capita for her state than any other state in the union.

In 2006, along with moderate Senator Evan Bayh, D-Ind., Sen. Obama introduced Senate Bill 2261, which established the following:

"No appropriation [a.k.a. ["spending"] bill shall be considered unless (1) a list of all earmarks in such bill and the name of the requestor and a short justification for each earmark are available to all Members and made available to the general public by means of the Internet for at least 72 hours before its consideration; (2) all earmarks are contained in the text of the bill and not incorporated by reference or directed in the committee report; and (3) all earmarks are germane to the bill." (Emphasis added.)

But when McCain had a chance to cooperate with the two Midwestern Senators on the bill, he suggested the matter be referred to a "task force to study the issue" rather than spiriting the bill along through the appropriate Senate committees to make sure it became law. Their disagreement went heatedly public, as McCain's famously volatile temperament led him to question Sen. Obama's sincerity. And as a result of that pissing match, despite other ethics legislation that has been proposed, supported, and passed by Congress with Sen. Obama's help in the ensuing two years, we still don't know their names.

Whether McCain did this out of his own vanity in wanting only his name to conjure ideas of "reform" and "maverick," or whether he simply wanted to drag his feet so as not to ruffle any feathers as he ramped up his presidential bid, the fact of the matter is that when John McCain had the chance to help Barack Obama "make them famous" so that the American people could "know their names," he took a pass.

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