The Founders And Earmarksby Doug Mataconis
Earlier this week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made this rather absurd comment in the debate of earmarks:
“As we look back in history, the Founding Fathers would be cringing to hear people talking about eliminating earmarks,” Reid said, noting that the Founders dictated in the Constitution that all spending should originate in Congress, not the executive branch.
Senator Tom Coburn has this response today:
Although our Founding Fathers disagreed on many matters large and small, they were united in their skepticism of a secretive, backroom process to allocate taxpayer funding. George Washington noted in 1792 that no mischief is “so afflicting and fatal to every honest hope, as the corruption of the legislature.” Congressional approval ratings are now at record lows because taxpayers do not believe that we are being honest or open about how we spend their money.
Instead of offering dubious defenses of the propriety of earmarking, congressional leaders should seek to restore the confidence of the American public in their ability to govern by reacquainting themselves with the very document upon which our system is based. According to the Senate’s own website, the first bill ever passed by the United States Senate created a simple 14-word oath of office for all federal lawmakers and civil servants: “I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States.” Conspicuously absent from that oath is any mention of the so-called duty of members of Congress to send taxpayer-funded projects to their hometowns.
The revisionist history justifying today’s earmark favor factory is hardly the fault of the Senate Majority Leader or even his party. Sadly, this idea has currency in the party of limited government in which members should know that the effective legislator is not one who sends money back to his or her state through pork, but the one who prevents money from leaving their state in the first place.
Something tells me Coburn’s got the better argument on this one.