Sunday, March 01, 2009

Obama Tied to Millions in Budget Earmarks

David Eberhart and David A. Patten

President Obama and top members of his administration appear to be sponsoring hundreds of millions of dollars of earmarks in the 2009 budget that Obama is trying to push through Congress, reports.

In the congressional report that accompanies the budget legislation, Obama is listed as a sponsor of a $7.7 million earmark for “Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Vocational Institutions.” Obama’s co-sponsors on that earmark include Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton President Obama pledged to fight the addition of pork-barrel earmarks to legislation during the presidential campaign. Last April, for example, Obama released a statement stating: "We can no longer accept a process that doles out earmarks based on a member of Congress' seniority, rather than the merit of the project."

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Biden, Clinton, and three other Cabinet secretaries who served in Congress last year are listed as sponsors or co-sponsors of hundreds of millions of dollars of earmarks attached to the spending bill.

The House approved the $410 billion omnibus budget measure Wednesday, sending it on to the Senate.

According to, Senate staffers say Obama’s name will be removed as a sponsor. It is not clear if Obama will insist that his cabinet officers withdraw their earmark requests, however.

Other earmarks traced back to members of the Obama administration:

# Vice President Joe Biden, who asked for $94.9 million in set-asides before assuming his new office. He is a co-sponsor of those expenditure requests.

# Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was the lone sponsor on $5.4 million of earmarks in the budget bill. Including the earmarks he supported as a secondary sponsor, he’s linked to $227.4 million of earmarks.

# Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asked for $31.2 million in earmarks, including $380,000 to replace vehicles that assist disabled persons in LaHood’s hometown of Peoria, Ill., the Web site says.

# Emanuel, the former congressman from Illinois, is currently sponsoring $3.9 million in earmarks on an individual basis.

# Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, a former member of Congress representing California, is linked to $38.4 million worth of earmarks, although she was the lone sponsor for only $814,000 of that total.

# Clinton sponsored just under $109 million in earmarks, although many of those were sponsored in concert with other senators.

On Wednesday, Gibbs evaded directly answering a question about whether Obama would prompt his Cabinet secretaries to withdraw their earmark requests.

“The president has discussed and worked with Congress to pass some reform of this process that now ensure that people like you that are interested can go into a piece of legislation and see the names of those sponsors,” Gibbs said.

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