Someone Please Tell John Boehner That Cutting Earmarks Doesn’t Reduce Spending

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) yesterday made one of those statements on the federal budget that is nonsensical both in substance and style. As reported by Steven Dennis in Roll Call, Boehner said “the GOP would ‘end earmarking as we know it’ if Republicans take the majority in November. Later in the day, Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that earmarks were “emblematic of the culture of spending that has dominated Washington for far too long and must be reversed.”

Two things are obviously wrong with Boehner’s statement and Cantor’s translation of it.

First, as I’ve written a number of times before (here and here, for example), eliminating earmarks does not reduce spending, it merely shifts the responsibility for allocating how an appropriation is spent from Congress to the executive branch. Therefore, and completely contrary to what Boehner and Cantor obviously want everyone to believe, nothing that was said yesterday will have any impact at all on the amount the government spends.

(The irony here is unmistakable: The impact of what Boehner and Cantor are saying will be to transfer power from Congress to the White House at the precise time they could be leading the majority in the House of Representatives. Does anyone really think they will cede that power at the precise moment they get to exercise it?)

Second, Boehner didn’t actually say that the GOP would eliminate earmarks, but rather “earmarking as we know it” (emphasis is obviously mine). That’s one of those very politician-like statements that can be taken to mean anything and many different things at different times. It would have been a Sherman-like-no-doubt-about-it statement had Boehner simply said that the GOP would end earmarking…period. But as soon as he added the qualifier “as we know it,” Boehner provided himself with all the room he needed to back down later.

So…Boehner made a statement about earmarks that even if it were enforced wouldn’t cut spending and also gave himself plenty of room to back away from it later anyway.

In other words, there’s simply no reason to take what Boehner and Cantor said seriously and lots of reasons to be disappointed that they said it.

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About Stan Collender 126 Articles

Affiliation: Qorvis Communications

Stan Collender is a former New Yorker who, after getting a degree from the University of California, Berkeley, moved to Washington to get it out of his system. That was more than 30 years ago.

During most of his career, Collender has worked on the federal budget and congressional budget process, including stints on the staff of the House and Senate Budget Committees; founding the Federal Budget Report, a newsletter that was published for almost two decades; and for the past 11 years writing a weekly column for and now

He is currently a managing director for Qorvis Communications, where he spends most of his time working with and for financial services clients.

Visit: Capital Gains and Games

2 Comments on Someone Please Tell John Boehner That Cutting Earmarks Doesn’t Reduce Spending

  1. Stan Collender;
    I find it hard to beleive anything John Boehner,Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and Mike Spence says, they all have History and its not good.
    Its sad me to know American Voters still thinks that Republicans can move this Country forward. I read on an interview Bret Baier of Foxnews had with John Boehner today. Talking about Healthcare Repeal.
    If i was President Obama i wouldn’t trust this guy, Boehner is bad news.Boehner refuse to debate the candidates, and he has to try to repeal Healthcare because Wellpoint,Humana,Aetna, and others gave huge sums of money to suport his run fo Speaker of House. All you have to do is read about these (4)guys to know that are for the Rich and only the RICH.

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