Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In an Obama Administration Will Republicans Defend Article 1 ?

This election season has brought attention to what is being worn – or not worn – on a candidate’s lapel.
Have you noticed if your Congressman(woman) is wearing an “Article 1” button ?

There has been a movement for members of Congress to take a pledge to be “pork-free” and in Minnesota there are currently two of the 46 who have sworn off earmarks – that would be Congressman John Kline (MN-02) and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (MN-06).

As a fiscal conservative, I applaud the effort to eliminate “pork-barrel” projects, but there is a vast difference between “pork-barrel” spending and “earmarks”.
What Kline and Bachmann are doing is shirking their Article 1 responsibilities and allowing the Executive Branch the power to spend funds as they deem appropriate.

Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-03) is reminding his colleagues of their Article 1 duties by offering lapel buttons. It may seem to be purely for show, yet the message is clear … Congress authorizes the monies. Note specifically Section 8 and a couple of the important passages “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, …” [snip] “To establish Post Offices and Post Roads …” [snip] and Section 9 “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law;” [snip]

Minnesotans know all to well of the conditions of our roads and bridges … ( I-35 Bridge is not the only problem … Kline’s district has the Hasting bridge and Bachmann’s district has the DeSoto Bridge). Without someone advocating earmarks for those repairs, other Congressman’s projects will be funded first.
First District Congressman Tim Walz has the right approach “Minnesota sends more money to Washington that it gets back, and it’s appropriate for us to advocate for the good use of tax dollars (in the district.)”
All Minnesotans need to be concerned about this as the State’s ability to attract and maintain businesses is predicated on its physical infrastructure.

And in 2009, when the next Congress convenes, there is a bigger problem. The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is projected to have a deficit of as much as $5 billion. As a result of how highway projects are funded, this could mean a one-third reduction of highway and transit spending. That deficit will be compounded even more as the cost of gasoline has resulted in a drop in miles traveled … the driving milage drop has only exacerbated a problem, not created it. The HTF is funded almost exclusively by the 18.3 cents per gallon taxes paid on gasoline and 24.8 cents per gallon tax on diesel by the nation’s drivers and truckers. So will Congress use it’s Section 8 responsiblities and increase taxes to fund these need investments … and will the Minnesota delegation have members that make sure we get our monies returned back to the State?

Earmarks are not the problem … “pork-barrel” projects are.
With the projected shortfall and the increased needs, do you want the next President to decide how monies should be spent ? Those members of Congress that sign the “earmarks” pledge are not being responsible or responsive.
As voters evalute incumbents, they should look for the “Article 1” button and ask them if they are willing to embrace transparency in earmark funding. If so, they should get your vote.

1 comment:

Apollo said...

I hope that Congress will reclaim some of its authority soon, but I am quite skeptical given the history. Whether it is vaguely worded legislation that makes the executive create agencies and regulations to enforce the "law" or ceding the power to make war with "use of force" declarations, Congress' lack of political spine manifests itself by not having the courage to carry out its constitutional duties. Good post!