Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Democrats Sidestep GOP Budget Trap

Not a bad gambit by the Democrats. It even pleases fiscal conservatives by hamstringing rampant earmarking.

At least for a while.

Democratic leaders declared a temporary moratorium on special-interest provisions known as earmarks as they attempt to cope with a budget crisis left by the outgoing Republican-led 109th Congress.

Congress adjourned early Saturday, having completed work on two of the 11 spending bills for the 2007 fiscal year that began Oct. 1. As a short-term fix, lawmakers extended current funding levels until Feb. 15. But the incoming Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees announced yesterday that they would extend current levels until the 2008 fiscal year begins next Oct. 1.

The alternative was to attempt to finish work on the spending bills when the Democratic-led Congress convenes in January, a dreaded prospect that could have derailed Democratic legislative efforts and stirred up policy battles around the same time that President Bush is due to submit his fiscal 2008 budget to the Hill, along with a large supplemental spending request for the Iraq war. ...

(The new chairmen, Rep. David R. Obey and Sen. Robert C. Byrd) said they would place a moratorium on all earmarks until lobbying changes are enacted. Those special spending provisions included in the unfinished fiscal 2007 bills will be eligible for consideration next year, the chairmen said, subject to new standards. ...

The unfinished bills account for about $463 billion in annual spending and include just about every domestic program other than defense and homeland security.

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