When an earmark isn’t an earmark

When the House Appropriations Committee approved a supplemental appropriations bill last week to cover spending on Iraq and Afghanistan, it declared the bill to be free of earmarks. Yet, as the New York Times reported late last week, it does have some provisions that look an awfully lot like earmarks, including $35 million for NASA’s Stennis Space Center. (The NASA funding isn’t mentioned in the committee statement about the spending bill, but is presumably part of the “Gulf Coast Recovery” section.) The money isn’t considered an earmark as currently defined by Congress since it is going to a federal agency and not a local government or entity.

Over the weekend, President Bush singled out the NASA money and a couple other earmark-like additions to the appropriations bill in his weekly radio address, saying that such provisions “do not belong in an emergency war spending bill.” But then, the president has much bigger issues with the bill than a seemingly out-of-place $35 million for Stennis.

9 comments to When an earmark isn’t an earmark

  • Adrasteia

    Perhaps they were hoping that Bush would veto the whole bill.

  • D. Messier

    Mmmmmm….. Do you think Bush even knew about it? To here Tony Snow tell it, he didn’t know much about replacing the U.S. attorneys either. Or did he? If they can fid the missing 18-minute….uh, sorry…16 day gap in communications, maybe we’ll know that answer.

  • GuessWho

    Quite frankly, I wouldn’t expect the President to pay much attention to such a small matter of replacing 8 U.S. attorneys. This type of activity is one where the CEO has delegated authority to a lower-level manager and allows him to take care of the details since this is an executive branch issue and not one where Congress has any business interfering. Besides, it’s not like he fired 93 U.S attorneys en masse…….

  • D. Messier

    Well, since you invited me to “guess who”, I would say you’re a high-ranking administration official. Either Bartlett, Snow or Rove. Let me guess the one with the most colorful nickname.

    So Turd Blossom, let me start by saying how honored we are by your presence here. It’s not often that you come down to converse with the common folks, so thank you for this.

    Turd, this is an excellent recitation of the bushcheney admin’s official position on this topic. Clearly the administration believes Congress should have no role in such activities. Otherwise, it would never have slipped a provision into the Patriot Act to allow the AG to appoint U.S. attorneys indefinitely with no Senate confirmation. So, that’s clear enough.

    It’s interesting, though Turd, that pressure from Congress seems to have played a role in some of the firings. Clearly, you believe that Congress as an institution should play no role. But, individual Congressmen should be able to have a say in who stays and who goes. Especially when they are FOTBs (Friends of Turd Blossom).

    How much to Bush know, Turd? That’s an interesting question, because he’s made a career out of being out of the loop (as did his father, on fewer occasions). It’s interesting that one of the last emails that’s been released from November questions whether to inform the president. Then there’s a fairly long gap until just before the firings in December. Almost as if there’s an attempt to shield him from involvement in this mess, Turd. Hard to believe you’d do that.

    Well, we’ll see what happens. Thanks again, Turd Blossom, for your inputs here. This is a fascinating discussion.

  • GuessWho

    ” Some Basic Facts About a United States Attorney’s Office
    Currently there are 93 United States Attorneys: one for each of the 94 federal
    judicial districts, except for Guam and the Northern Marianas, where a single U.S. Attorney serves both districts. In addition to their main offices, many U.S. Attorneys maintain smaller satellite offices throughout their districts. U.S. Attorneys are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and they serve terms of four years or at the President’s discretion.” – Carolyn Stafford Stein ‘85 OPIA Attorney Advisor, Harvard Law School.

    “USA PATRIOT Act revisions

    On March 9, 2006, The USA PATRIOT Act Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 was signed into law. Included in this revision to the USA PATRIOT Act is a change in the interim appointment process of U.S. Attorneys. Both the provisions for the 120-day term expiration period for the Attorney General’s interim appointees, and the subsequent appointment authority of district courts were stricken from the U.S. Code. The interim appointee may serve indefinitely, if the president declines to nominate a U.S. Attorney for a vacancy. The change was written into the bill by Republican Senator Arlen Specter.[71] The change is worded as follows:

    SEC. 502. INTERIM APPOINTMENT OF UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS. Section 546 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by striking subsections (c) and (d) and inserting the following new subsection: ‘(c) A person appointed as United States attorney under this section may serve until the qualification of a United States Attorney for such district appointed by the President under section 541 of this title.'[72]

    Therefore, the resulting statutory provision currently in effect (which is has not yet been reflected in published versions of the United States Code) reads as follows:

    § 546. Vacancies

    (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), the Attorney General may appoint a United States attorney for the district in which the office of United States attorney is vacant.
    (b) The Attorney General shall not appoint as United States attorney a person to whose appointment by the President to that office the Senate refused to give advice and consent.
    (c) A person appointed as United States attorney under this section may serve until the qualification of a United States Attorney for such district appointed by the President under section 541 of this title.

    28 U.S.C. § 546 (2007).”

    S. 109-1389—”A bill to reauthorize and improve the USA PATRIOT Act”—was introduced July 13, 2005, in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.). Cosponsors were Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

    A similar bill by Sensenbrenner in the house was also introduced. After passage by both the House and Senate, conference committee reconciliation, the final bill was passed in the Senate by a 89 (Yea) to 10 (Nay) vote. Voting in favor were Sen.’s Clinton, Schumer,Boxer, Feinstein, Dodd, Biden, Obama, Kennedy, Kerry, and Reid, among other Senate Dems.

    Any idiot, including you D. Messier, can look this up on the internet in a matter of five minutes. Instead, you demonstrate your obvious intellect with name calling and avoidance of fact.

  • Jeff Foust

    Please avoid posting, or responding to, off-topic comments. Thank you for your cooperation.

  • D. Messier

    I apologize for going off topic. And GuessWho is definitely not Rove. He doesn’t rant quite that way, although there are people who regularly do in the space field.

    To get back on topic. It is interesting that Bush rails against earmarks but has for six years signed bills chock full of them, including this war provision that somehow includes NASA money. His igornance of this is excused by some people. Cant expect him to understand what he’s signing. However, members of Congress are pillored for not knowing all the provisions of the massive Patriot Act, including one apparently put in at the last minute.

  • Adrasteia

    Bush understands perfectly well what he’s signing, just like the Democrats knew perfectly well that regardless of what pork they add, he can’t bloody well veto a spending bill that is supporting the idiotic war of choice that he started.

    What surprises me is the fact that they didn’t press the advantage and also slap a couple billion dollars worth of medicaid or education funding onto the bottom of it.

  • Edward Wright

    > it does have some provisions that look an awfully lot like earmarks, including $35 million for NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

    This is nothing new. The US Navy Seals have been “sponsoring” the Stennis visitors center for years. The people who complain loudly about earmarks in NASA’s budget never said a word about NASA swiping money from the special forces budget.

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