The Founders And Earmarks

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.

  • Ben

    There is a small handful of people in Congress that can rightfully invoke the Constitution and the Founders, and Reid definitely is not one of them.

  • Benjamin Kuipers

    Not only does the U.S. Constitution not make any allowance for direct congressional expenditure of funds for anything not explicitly written into Article I, the framers, at the Constitutional Convention, explicitly rejected clauses which would have allowed outlays for “internal” improvements and other garden-variety “earmarks.”

  • Brad Warbiany

    What a joke.

    The opponents accuse DeMint of destroying the rightful power of Congress.

    As a libertarian, I believe I have every right to use drugs and solicit prostitutes. But I don’t because I realize those actions would be stupid and destroy my life and my marriage. Yet that doesn’t restrict my rights in any way.

    Neither would a self-imposed moratorium on earmarks. While I don’t believe that the Constitution would authorize earmarks (nor would Davy Crockett), this bill does NOTHING to limit the authority of Congress to be the holder of the public pursestrings. What it does do is for Congressmen to CHOOSE to show restraint…

    …Something they’ve never been known for doing.

  • UCrawford

    Something tells me Coburn’s got the better argument on this one.

    When it comes to economics he usually does.

    Of course, when it comes to civil liberties…

  • The Liberative

    I’m just soooo sure the Founding Fathers envisioned HAVING earmarks, and that they would approve of spending the PEOPLE’s MONEY recklessly…

  • Jeff Molby

    I don’t care about earmarks at all. Wake me when someone has the cajones to talk about a net reduction in spending.

  • oilnwater

    there wasnt a national income tax in the founders’ day.