Earmark Reform

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In his State of the Union address last night, President Bush said all future earmarks that are not passed as law will be ignored by the Executive branch.

This is clearly his right: Congress can pass laws, but they have no other power to dictate how the Executive does its job. If a bill's report says "give $30 billion on Acme Inc. to make anti-terrorist widgets," but that is not in the actual bill, then it is not law, and not binding on the Executive.

A spokesman for Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) says:

It is hypocritical that President Bush is considering issuing an executive order on a spending bill passed by a Democratic Congress with bipartisan support while failing to do so with spending bills passed by Republican Congresses in the past.

I don't know if hypocritical is quite the right word (it depends on his reasons for not doing so before), but I mostly agree: my first reaction was "finally, even if it is several years late." And it may not have any effect at all, if no more spending bills reach Bush. So it is an essentially valid criticism of the President, to my eyes, but it doesn't argue against what he did (just what he didn't).

That's OK, the Republicans offer such criticism, via spokesman for Thad Cochran (R-MS):

Just as Congress takes the president's budget request under very careful advisement, so should the president honor the report language Congress writes to accompany bill text. Requiring all budget specifics to be included in bill text would be highly inefficient and would cripple an already difficult budget process.

I don't have any sympathy whatsoever for someone who complains that following the Constitution is inconvenient. Congress takes action through passing bills. There should be no shortcuts, period, because every shortcut they take is less power the citizens have.

For what it's worth, my second favorite moment of the address was when Bush said, "On matters of justice, we must trust in the wisdom of our founders and empower judges who understand that the Constitution means what it says." And then during the applause, he looked down with disdain toward the front row, at Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote a book explaining why he ignores the Constitution.

OK, I am the one who looked at Breyer with disdain at that moment, but still. slashdot.org

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"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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