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Obama Won’t Fight Earmarks in Spending Bill

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Democrats in Congress have no intention of joining President Obama in his fight against earmarks. And it looks like Obama is going to give in, at least on the $410 billion spending bill which Obama will sign, despite copious earmarks.

Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group, identified almost 8,600 earmarks totaling $7.7 billion; Democrats say the number is $3.8 billion.

Either way, it is far more than Obama promised as a candidate. He refused earmarks for the economic stimulus package he championed and a children’s health bill.

He similarly pledged to reject tailored budget requests that let lawmakers send money to their home states. [Administration budget chief Peter] Orszag said Obama would move ahead and overlook the time-tested tradition that lets officials divert millions at a time to pet projects.

“We want to make sure that earmarks are reduced and they’re also transparent. We’re going to work with the Congress on a set of reforms to achieve those,” said Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The official excuse is that Obama’s real budget will go into effect this fall. This current spending bill is just a holdover from the Bush Administration. So, you know, blame Bush. Although he’s no longer in office. And his party is in the minority.

This is politics as usual. Obama is popular, his administration is barely out of the shrink wrap and, frankly, he owes a lot of the Congressional Democrats for helping him get elected. He’s going to let them have their earmarks now, when he’s still too popular and it’s still too early in the next election cycle for Republicans to gain much traction on the issue. Come fall, when the next spending bill comes up, look for Obama to take a harder stance on earmarks. Or develop a more eloquent excuse for allowing them.

Too bad Obama chose expediency over confrontation this time around. Putting his foot down now would have sent a crystal clear signal that he really does intend to change things.