Harry Reid To Obama: “Back Off” On Earmarks

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During Tuesday’s State Of The Union Address, President Obama threatened to veto and bill sent to him that contains earmarks. Harry Reid wasn’t too impressed:

Dismissing President Barack Obama’s opposition to earmarks as “an applause line,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told NBC News on Wednesday that the president should “back off” and let lawmakers continue to direct spending to their home districts.

Asked during a one-on-one interview with NBC whether Obama was wrong to promise a veto on any bill that contains earmarks, Reid quickly replied, “of course.”

“This is an applause line,” Reid said. “It’s an effort by the White House to get more power. They’ve got enough power as it is.”

Reid, along with other lawmakers who support earmarking, argues that eliminating the practice simply puts more discretion in the hands of executive branch officials who have authority to fund projects.  “I have a Constitutional obligation to do congressionally directed spending,” he said. “I know much more about what should be done in Elko [or] Las Vegas, Nevada, than some bureaucrat does back here.”

Reid said voters should recognize that eliminating congressional earmarks does not, in itself, reduce spending but changes how the same money is spent.

“I think it’s absolutely wrong and the public should understand that the president has enough power; he should back off and let us do what we do.”

This is one of those rare times where I agree with Harry Reid:

Earmarking is easy to criticize because it seems like pork-barrel politics at it’s most petty level. It’s an easy way for a Congressmen or Senator to claim that they are “fighting government waste” and working to reduce spending without having to make any of the actual hard choices that cutting spending actually requires. For another, engaging in a phony war against “earmarking” that doesn’t actually reduce spending is politically popular, far more popular than cutting farm subsidies, corporate subsidies, defense spending, and entitlement spending are going to be. It’s easier. The fact that it doesn’t actually work ? Well, that’s just a technicality.

Reid is right. The veto threat was a great applause line, but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.