Proposal from Harvard Prof: The Congressional Line Item Vote can Eliminate Earmarks. My Proposal: Don't Insert Earmarks.

October 8th, 2009

From Professor Iluiano (H/T Legal Theory Blog):

Congressional earmarking is an issue of growing concern in the United States. Although it currently accounts for a small percentage of federal expenditures, recent trends indicate that such pork-barrel spending will soon become a significant contributor to the national debt. The federal government must work to control this problem before it becomes unmanageable. One recent attempt to reduce the number of earmarks was the Line Item Veto Act of 1996. On both constitutional grounds and in practice, this measure failed.

Instead of acknowledging these shortcomings and crafting innovative solutions, legislators have repeatedly introduced bills that would once again grant the president a form of line item veto power. This Article, however, develops an entirely new process – the congressional line item vote – that has the potential to eliminate earmarks, reduce the deficit, and make members of Congress more accountable to their constituents.

Part IV will examine why Congress better suited than the President at crafting legislation that advances the national interest. Finally, in Part V, this paper will argue that a congressional line item vote is the best method for eliminating earmarks, reducing the deficit, and increasing congressional accountability. Because the congressional line item vote holds legislators accountable for each provision in every bill, it will force members of Congress to place the preferences of their constituents first.

Umm… I have an easier suggestion. The way to eliminate earmarks is to eliminate earmarks. Simple, right? Stop inserting them, and they won’t exist.

But of course, rationally self interested congressman have every incentive to insert. And as a resident of Johnstown, PA, my Representative, Jack Murtha, is the king of earmarks. See a recent WSJ Op-Ed about our airport for no one for more details. (I will be flying out of the Jack Murtha Airport next week, stay tuned for bloggings).

If Congress would stick to their enumerated powers, they would not have the Constitutional mandate to spend on the wide ranging crap contained in earmarks. You may argue, what about the spending power. Well, as I understand it, the spending power is linked only to power Congress has. I would argue Congress lacks the power to spend in many wholly intrastate activities. Interesting proposal nonetheless.