Are earmarks returning?

The House is expected to consider a highway bill this week that will cause a multi-billion-dollar hole in the budget. The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee John Mica (R-Fla.) is rolling out a plan to spend $260 billion over the next five years.  Revenues from the gas tax are projected to fall short by $70 billion.  Yet Mica is still working on some creative means to pay for this bloated highway bill. Further complicating the spending problems in the House is a bipartisan effort by free-spending politicians to go back to earmarking special projects for home state vendors.  The Senate rejected an effort by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) to ban earmarking.  Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) told The Hill last week that senators should consider lifting the moratorium next year.  He argued that the current two-year ban “on balance it was good policy,” but Congress should “revisit the issue” next year.

This pronouncement was in the wake of a Washington Post expose that found many earmarked projects personally benefitting members.  Earmarks are corrupting, because lobbyists who secure earmarks tend to give extra cash to the members who secure these lucrative projects for lobbyists.

This highway bill is putting us on the road to ruin, yet many members of both parties seem to care more about an earmarked bike path or a Bridge to Nowhere than about shrinking the federal government.

2nd Amendment bills 

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a historic effort to push for a chipping away at existing law restricting the rights of all Americans to own a firearm. Conservatives hope he pushes some votes this year while challenging the Senate to take up and pass pro-gun legislation.

Mike Hammond of Gun Owners of America says that Rep. Paul Broun’s (R-Ga.) bill to allow “constitutional carry” would be a great first step.  The Broun bill, H.R. 2900, would allow citizens to legally carry a concealed firearm from one state to another if they are authorized by their home state.  This bill would be a great start on a comprehensive debate on restoring the 2nd Amendment.  Another point of debate should be the idea of repealing the effective ban on guns in the District of Columbia.

STOCK Act Sanity

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) released the House version of the STOCK Act, a bill to prevent insider trading by members of Congress.  The Cantor version of the bill removed some offensive provisions from the Senate-passed version. The STOCK Act passed the House last Thursday.

The Senate version contained language forcing political intelligence consultants to register like lobbyists.  This would have had a chilling effect on the 1st Amendment rights of many political observers. 

Also, the Senate attached a provision to the STOCK Act that would reinstate overbroad and vague government authority to prosecute “corruption.”  The Supreme Court had struck down a law granting the federal government license to prosecute what they personally deemed to be in violation of “honest services.”  The language attached to the STOCK Act by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would have restored that concept to federal law by creating a new vague and ambiguous standard for prosecutors. 

Three cheers for Cantor in standing up for the Constitution to oppose a creeping over-criminalization that is infecting America. 

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