Just days after releasing a plan to reduce government spending, Fred Thompson continued his assault on earmarks, promising today that if elected president he would sign an executive order canceling lawmakers’ pork-barrel projects. President Bush is considering the idea, which is strongly opposed by congressional appropriators but supported by fiscal conservatives.
Thompson fielded questions from bloggers during a conference call this afternoon. He was asked if he would issue an executive order instructing federal agencies to ignore the nearly 10,000 earmarks in the omnibus spending bill that was enacted in December.
Yes, yes. In fact, I’ve been talking about that. These earmarks are not part of the legislation. They have not been debated or had a chance for open and honest debate. They’re not part of the law. And it comes out of the president’s discretion to tell OMB to instruct the agencies to disregard whatever comes out of these committees in terms of those kinds of earmarks.
Thompson has been talking about earmarks all week following the release of his latest policy paper on government spending. He outlines three steps to halt the corrupting influence of earmarks, including a line-item veto, ignoring “soft” earmarks and promoting greater transparency.
1. Provide President with Line-Item Veto Authority. Congress can provide this authority without a Constitutional amendment. Such authority would better control spending and prevent the use of public funding for wasteful earmarks.
2. Direct Agencies to Ignore “Soft” Earmarks. “Soft” earmarks are those included in Congressional report language, but not in actual legislation. Failure to include such earmarks in the bill language itself makes it easier for Members of Congress to hide their earmarks and prevents the full House and Senate from voting on them. Federal agencies must not fund these “soft” earmarks unless they otherwise meet agency standards for a funding award.
3. Propose Legislation on Earmark Procedures. Promote greater transparency by urging Congress to approve legislation that requires the posting of all earmarks on the Internet for the public to view at least 24 hours before the underlying bill is brought to the floor for consideration.
Thompson’s comments followed similar remarks from Sen. John McCain yesterday. Mike Huckabee was asked a similar question in December. At the time, he said, “I think some of them ought to be vetoed. If they can’t be vetoed, then ignore them.” Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani have also called for an end to earmarks, but have yet to address the question of an executive order directly.