March 11, 2009
Posted: 09:44 AM ET
By Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., majority leader of the House of Representatives.
Congressional initiatives, added to the president's specific priorities, have come to be known as "earmarks." The power of the purse is expressly bestowed upon Congress by the Constitution and must be protected to maintain the balance of power between the branches of government.
Earmarks, however, actually make up a tiny portion of the budget but have received a disproportionate share of attention.
This attention is due in part to some appropriate criticism of wasteful earmarks and, in part, to purely political motives.
While in control, Republicans reveled in earmarks, quadrupling the number. When Democrats took back Congress in 2007, we imposed strict accountability rules. Now, lawmakers must disclose their earmarks, certify that they have no personal financial stake in them and identify any private entity that might benefit. The public can track every dime, and we are in the process of adopting further transparency measures this year.
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