Jon Kyl On Earmarks: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Jon Kyl On Earmarks: Do As I Say, Not As I Do


Last week, Arizona Senator and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl came together with other members of the GOP and passed a non-binding resolution that called a sweeping moratorium on earmarks.

And this week…


Only three days after GOP senators and senators-elect renounced earmarks, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Senate Republican, got himself a whopping $200 million to settle an Arizona Indian tribe’s water rights claim against the government.

Kyl slipped the measure into a larger bill sought by President Barack Obama and passed by the Senate on Friday to settle claims by black farmers and American Indians against the federal government. Kyl’s office insists the measure is not an earmark, and the House didn’t deem it one when it considered a version earlier this year. […]

The money for the 15,000-member White Mountain Apache Tribe was one of four tribal water rights claims totaling almost $570 million that was added to the $5 billion-plus bill. Black farmers will get about $1.2 billion to settle claims that the Agriculture Department’s local offices discriminated against them in awarding loans and other aid. Another $3.4 billion goes to American Indians who say the Interior Department swindled them out of oil, gas and other royalties.

No, those aren’t earmarks. They’re not requests from a single Senator for a very particular project that will only benefit his state. Not at all.

Cue the laugh track…

  • kranky kritter

    If the claim of the Indians in question has merit, I have zero problem with this.

    I wouldn’t call this an earmark, which generally refers to some sort of pet building or jobs project, not compensation for an acknowledged wrong.

    And I am certain that if a Democrat had supported something like this for his or her constituents and a conservative called it an earkmark, you’d ridicule them for it.

    You’re trying too hard here. Kyl can certainly be criticized for post-election backpedaling and politicking, but not for this.

  • Chris

    I think it technically fits the description of an earmark KK.

  • kranky kritter

    I wasn’t aware that there WAS a technical definition. Do tell.

  • Joe Sortais

    Well we will borrow this $5 billion from the Chinese, add it to the national debt, and hand it to these folks-look at the good side-at least they are Americans and possibly they will put it to work at home! But-how many more billions will China lend us before they think we might be a bad debtor and cut off the spigot? Joe Sortais

  • Chris

    Saying that’s not an earmark is just asinine.

  • mw

    When one of the most militant anti-earmark groups – Taxpayers for Common Sense – says it is not an earmark, you at least have to acknowledge that this particular allocation is in a gray area:

    Two anti-earmark watchdogs I spoke with today took something of a similar line — saying that what Kyl did isn’t earmarking in the official sense. But, one suggested, that may not matter as much as Kyl might hope it does.

    “There’s a lot of nuance and any comment you include from [us] should note that,” Taxpayers for Common Sense vice president Steve Ellis told me. “We’re into earmark shades of grey.”…

    Ellis said Leahy and the Democrats jumping on Kyl today may actually be jumping the gun instead.

    “Despite Sen. Leahy’s gleeful protestations to the contrary, there’s no way Congress (Republican or Democrat) would consider this an official earmark — too much money,” he told me. The government was going to have to pay the Arizona tribe at some point, Ellis said, so “so Uncle Sam was going to be coming up with the cash whether or not Sen. Kyl got it in,” Ellis said.

    Ellis’ group is vehemently anti-earmark, and he said that last year’s federal budget had “$6 billion worth of provisions we considered an earmark that Congress did not.” Kyl’s addition to the settlement bill “leads you down the earmark path,” Ellis said, but he added, “I don’t think this would violate the Senate GOP moratorium, because that is based on the Senate earmark definition.”

    That said, I have absolutely no problem with Democrats, Leahy, Justin, Chris and all shades of blueish partisans jumping all over Kyl for the way this was handled. It is just going to up the ante for any legislator trying to pull off this crap in the future, and that is a good thing. I could not be happier if every borderline earmark from either side of the aisle gets exactly this kind of attention.

    Earmarks permit legalized bribery. They are the single most corrosive ingredient in our legislative cesspool. The Republicans are without question every bit as hypocritical as Democrats on earmarks. But, at least they are making an attempt here, with the Tea Party holding a big club over their head. That is more than I can say about the Democrats, who simply blew off Obama’s earmark campaign promises.

  • Tully

    The Wiki article is correct, and quite instructive for any who are unfamiliar with the mechanics of the DC sausage grinder. Under the technical definition of earmark, ANY legislation that authorizes funds for ANYTHING OTHER THAN an ADMINISTRATION budgetary request is an “earmark.”

    Yet authorizing funding for particular purposes is a Congressional duty under the Constitution. The alternative to no “earmarks” (technical definition) is Congress simply handing $XXX billions to the admin to do as they please with it, with no direction or restraints.

  • kranky kritter

    Tully’s right. Clearly what’s needed is a lot more clarification in our own minds about exactly what folks have in mind as objectionable congressional spending, pork that is.

    But I don’t get any sense that anyone here besides Tully is especially interested in a good faith effort at forging that clarity. Chris, you only seem interested in backing up Justin’s contention that John Kyl is an evil hypocrite, thereby proving again your pet hypothesis that the GOP is the root of all evil. He only wants to win the argument that Kyl is an earmarking hypocrite. As if that would solve anything.

    And MW doesn’t seem to provide any sort of basis for what sorts of dictated spending congress might defensibly undertake without being accused of “legalized bribery” and corrosion of democracy.

    I don’t find this spending troublesome, and I don’t think of providing funding to right some long-established wrong to be pork, or worth complaining about, outside of perhaps the quarrel about method.

    And I think that method is probably at the root of many folks objections. Folks don’t like things like slipping in extra stuff at the last minute, or including many unrelated legislative enterprises in one bill, or starting with a straightforward bill and then adding on more and more stuff to attract the support to get it passed.

    We need process mechanisms to constrain that sort of stuff.

  • Chris

    I find hypocrites troublesome, not spending.

  • theWord

    @Kranky- Perhaps you two should get a room

  • Tillyosu

    I find hypocrites troublesome, not spending.

    The federal budget deficit has quadrupled under Obama, and by 2020, interest payments will be as large as the defense budget.

    And you’re worried about whether someone is a hypocrite?

  • Chris

    Yes I am actually. How much did the deficit balloon under Bush? Republicans say they are fiscally conservative, but are nothing of the sort. Obama never said he was fiscally conservative. I don’t agree with most of what he’s done, but I would still vote for him over a republican “conservative”.

  • Tillyosu

    Obama may have never claimed to be a fiscal conservative. I don’t know. But he also never ran on a platform of quadrupling the national deficit in his first two years. I think that if he had, he would not have been elected. So you could certainly make the argument that he misled voters into believing that he would be more fiscally conservative than he actually is.

    But that’s neither here nor there. The argument that “you can’t complain now if you didn’t complain under Bush” may be stronger if spending under the two presidents was identical. But it’s not, it’s drastically different. So reaction to it is, appropriately, drastically different. Conservatives were rightly displeased by spending under Bush, and are now rightly alarmed by spending under Obama.

    Think about it this way – the man who slaps a stranger on the street deserves scorn, but not nearly as much as the man who shoots a stranger on the street.