October 3, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: John Murtha, PorkMeister!

Outside Washington, Mr. Murtha, a Vietnam veteran and longtime hawk, may be best known for his break with the president over the Iraq war last fall. But inside the Capitol, he is best known for turning earmarks into power. As the top Democrat on the House military spending subcommittee, he often delivers Democratic votes to Republican leaders in a tacit exchange for earmarks for himself and his allies. . . .

Earmarks — often buried deep in complex bills by unidentified lawmakers — have come under new scrutiny since the conviction last fall of Representative Randy Cunningham, a California Republican on the defense-spending panel who accepted more than $2.4 million in bribes from contractors. The cost of earmarks has tripled in the last decade to about $64 billion a year, according to the Congressional Research Service. Mr. Murtha and other lawmakers say many earmarks are worthwhile, but critics charge that they waste taxpayers’ money, encourage cronyism and foster self-dealing.

Some members of Congress complain that earmarks corrupt lawmaking in other ways. “They are used as internal bribery in order to get members to vote for a piece of legislation they wouldn’t ordinarily give two minutes to,” said Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

No one is more adept at such trading than Mr. Murtha, say current and former members, Congressional aides and outside observers.

I guess it’s too much to hope that Diana Irey will oust him this fall, though I see that she’s making an issue of the pork.

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