WASHINGTON—Frontrunning Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Monday signed on to a one year earmark moratorium–embracing the cause that is the signature issue for Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), the presumptive GOP nominee. Obama–after seeking earmarks for Illinois for the three years he has been in the Senate–said he will not ask for any earmarks for Illinois this year. McCain seeks no earmarks for Arizona. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has wrangled a lot of earmark money for New York projects and causes.
What will Obama’s taking a pass on earmarks mean for Illinois? Not much, since Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), on the Senate Apropriations Committee, handles most everything having to do with Illinois–especially in the more than a year Obama has been running for president In announcing his support for a moratorium, Obama noted that he has “championed greater disclosure requirements for earmarks.” Obama has refused to disclose his earmarks for 2005 and 2006 while revealing his earmarks for 2007, the year he started running for president.
My Sun-Times colleague Robert Novak has a column in todays paper LINK with the background on the moratorium proposed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)
Obama and Clinton are both signed on the DeMint amendment.
This from the Obama Senate office….
Obama Supports One-Year Moratorium on All Congressional Earmarks
WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today released the following statement on his decision to cosponsor an amendment offered by Senator Jim DeMint to implement a one-year moratorium on all congressional earmarks during the FY 2009 appropriations cycle:
As a U.S. Senator, I have long fought for greater transparency and accountability in federal spending. One of the legislative accomplishments of which I am most proud is a law I authored to create a searchable database of all federal contracts and grants. I also have championed greater disclosure requirements for earmarks to ensure that the public knows which member of Congress is sponsoring an earmark.
However, even with all of these reforms, I have come to believe that the system is broken. We can no longer accept a process that doles out earmarks based on a member of Congress seniority, rather than the merit of the project. We can no longer accept an earmarks process that has become so complicated to navigate that a municipality or non-profit group has to hire high-priced D.C. lobbyists to do it. And we can no longer accept an earmarks process in which many of the projects being funded fail to address the real needs of our country.
The entire earmarks process needs to be re-examined and reformed. For that reason, I will be supporting Senator DeMints amendment and will not be requesting earmarks this year for Illinois. Over the next year, I hope to work with my colleagues, both Democratic and Republican, to improve the earmarks process.