GOP needs to get serious on earmarks

Over at the Washington Post, Marc Thiessen takes up the lack of a commitment by House Republicans on reforming earmarks or continuing their self-imposed moratorium from the practice:

In March, House Republicans enacted a voluntary, unilateral one-year ban on earmarks — and they largely kept their promise. Of the 1,081 earmarks approved by the House since the ban was adopted, only seven were requested by Republicans. The ban was designed to send a signal to voters that Republicans would not go back to their free-spending ways if given the reins of power again.

But as Election Day draws closer, House Republicans are sending voters a very different signal — they are backing off the earmark ban. The GOP’s Pledge to America was conspicuously silent when it came to banning earmarks. And in August, Rep. Eric Cantor — the leading candidate for House majority leader should Republicans take control — told Politico that the GOP might roll back the ban, but that “if there are earmarks, there will be an earmark process that will ensure we’re doing everything we can to show the people that their dollars are not being wasted.”

Rep. John Boehner, the Republican speaker-in-waiting, has refused to say whether the earmark ban will continue. When I asked Boehner at the American Enterprise Institute last week why the ban wasn’t in the pledge, he replied: “The pledge was about a legislative agenda that can be enacted today. We’ve already taken care of today. There is an earmark moratorium in place. It will be up to the next Congress [whether to continue that moratorium]. But I am here to tell you that we are not going to see earmarks as we’ve seen in the past under a Republican majority if I’m the speaker of the House.”

If Boehner is being honest, then why wasn’t there a firm commitment against the practice in the Pledge to America? A moratorium is a great start, but not stand to tackle a symptom of the problem in Washington should bother fiscal conservatives, libertarians and tea partyers.