This vote was on whether to allow an amendment by Jim DeMint, R-S.C., that would make it easier to defeat any legislation that includes member pet projects (often called “earmarks”) for private or for-profit entities that were not subjected to a competitive bid process, did not receive any public hearings, or had not been posted on the requesting member of Congress’ Web site for at least 72 hours prior to being considered on the floor.
The amendment was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress’ budget priorities in fiscal 2010. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.
When DeMint offered his amendment, Kent Conrad, D-N.D., tried to defeat it with a parliamentary maneuver on the grounds that it violated the Senate’s rule that requires amendments to be related (or “germane”) to the underlying bill’s purpose. DeMint then called for a vote on waiving the rule for his amendment, which is what this vote was on.
DeMint said one of President Obama’s campaign pledges was that he would reform the process by which earmarks are inserted into bills. He said his amendment follows the goals Obama set out.
“It is just that simple. This is the President’s plan for earmark reform. I ask my colleagues to support it,” DeMint said.
Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said already the Senate’s rules require that in order to have an earmark in a bill, it must be posted on the requesting member of Congress’ Web site 30 days before the bill is marked up. He also said as a whole Congress has reduced the amount of earmarks to less than 1 percent of total spending.
“There is much transparency, much more than ever before,” Inouye said. He also pointed to a portion of Obama’s speech declaring that Congress has the power of the purse, and that they should “have the ability to respond to the needs of the communities.”
“Yes, all of us were elected to represent our districts and our States. We were not elected to be rubberstamps of anyone,” Inouye said.
By a vote of 28-69, the motion was defeated. The end result is that the motion to waive the rules for DeMint’s amendment failed, the amendment was killed as not germane to the budget resolution, and the measure went forward without language that would have made it easier to defeat any legislation that includes earmarks for projects that were not competitively bid, were not the subject of public hearings, or had not been posted in public for 72 hours prior.