The current ban on congressional earmarks gives the Obama administration and federal bureaucrats even greater power and authority over the expenditure of taxpayer funds. It’s no surprise then, that President Obama was quick to endorse the ban on congressional earmarks—it grants his administration more power to pursue its agenda by exercising a power that properly resides with Congress. The President even endorsed the ban with his veto threat during this year’s State of the Union Address and in subsequent speeches.
With this greater power, the Obama administration (and future administrations) will embark on its own bureaucratic earmarks through a process that will mean less transparency and little accountability for the American people. The infamous $787 billion stimulus bill, which both of us vigorously opposed and voted against, did not contain a single congressional earmark. Instead, millions in bureaucratic earmarks were spent for programs to determine the effects of intoxication on mice, the protection of insects from other insects, the mating habits of bugs and rodents, and walkways for turtles.
We were the only two conservatives to be outspoken against the current ban, because it was the right thing to do—politically unpopular, but the right thing. With the current earmark ban in place, Congress becomes nothing more than a rubber stamp for President Obama's spending requests, and our opposition to the ban is based on the fact that this is not how our Founding Fathers envisioned our government. When writing the U.S. Constitution, they gave Congress, not the executive branch, the power of the purse.
According to James Madison’s view outlined in the Federalist Papers, Congress holds this power for the very reason that it is closer to the people. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story noted in 1833 that if this authority were given to the President, "the executive would possess an unbounded power over the public purse of the nation, and might apply all its monied resources at his pleasure."
That constitutional power has been ceded to the President.
What’s worse is the fact that banning congressional earmarks won't save a single taxpayer dime. Instead of saving taxpayer money, the spending authority is shifted from Congress to the Executive Branch. In this case, the money is put into the hands of President Obama, to spend how he sees fit.
Unfortunately, the years of demagoguing earmarks have distracted the American people from the real fiscal problems that face our nation. Is it any wonder that Obama supported the big push behind the ban on congressional earmarks? With Congress out of the way, he is the now the king of earmarks.
Sen. Jim Inhofe serves as the senior senator from Oklahoma. Rep. Ron Paul serves as the congressman from the 14th district of Texas.