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Thursday, September 14, 2006

US House passes earmark reform bill

US Representative Mark Souder of Indiana's 3rd District announced that he voted for the US House of Representatives to adopt a change to its own rules to make the earmark funding process more transparent.

Mr. Souder was a co-sponsor of the change.

It is long overdue. It may help ameliorate the anger of fiscal conservatives who have watched a Republican Congress become more and more profligrate with taxpayers' dollars and taxpayers' future dollars. A Republican Congress which was elected as a champion of doing the public's business a different way in 1994 had become, with each passing year, a disappointing collection of special interest funders.

The House leadership had bottled up this change for too long. A well deserved thanks goes to leaders like US Representative Jeff Flake and others, including, notably, Mike Pence, for working assiduously for this change even when they have borne rebukes from the House leadership.

Additional thanks should go to The Club for Growth for demonstrating to Republicans not interested in making the process more transparent that there were electoral costs that could be exacted.

The complete text of US Representative Souder's press release follows:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Rep. Mark Souder voted today for House adoption of H.Res.1000, legislation that changes the rules of the House of Representatives in order to shed light on the earmark funding process. The Souder-cosponsored bill passed the House by a majority of 245-171, and it takes effect immediately.

Earmarks are funding set-asides requested by Members of Congress for specific projects, usually in their congressional district or state.

"As the House began looking at reforming Congress in January, one of the major sticking points was whether to open earmarks to public scrutiny," Souder said. "A lack of required transparency had cloaked much of the process in secrecy and permitted abuse of the system. Since I first came to Congress, I have voluntarily disclosed the funding requests that I've made and the amounts that our area have consequently received. Today's rule change is an important accomplishment. It will bring the House into line with my own policy, and it will help reduce the potential for corruption."

"Earmarks play an important role in ensuring that Hoosiers' taxpayer dollars are returned home rather than ending up in Washington or a bigger city or state," Souder continued. "For example, we've gained important flood control funding through the earmark process."

"I believe that we need to pass more reforms," Souder added, "but-when combined with passage last night of a new, Google-like database of federal grants-we are taking some positive steps."

Under the new House rule, before legislation may be brought to the House floor for consideration, the bill must include a list of all earmarks along with the names of Members of Congress requesting the earmark. (The new rule applies to all three types of earmarks: authorizing, appropriations, and tax earmarks.) As a result of this rule change, the public will now have the opportunity to see the full list of earmarks included in a piece of legislation, and who sponsored each one.

Last night, the House passed S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. Souder was a cosponsor of the House version of the bill (H.R. 5060), which will establish a public database to track federal grants and contracts. The bill will now be sent to President Bush, who is expected to sign it into law.

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