Obama on Earmarks

these abuses with a series of reforms I was proud to have helped write. We eliminated anonymous earmarks and created new measures of transparency in the process, so Americans can better follow how their tax dollars are being spent. These measures were combined with the most sweeping ethics reforms since Watergate. We banned gifts and meals and made sure that lobbyists have to disclose who they’re raising campaign money from, and who in Congress they send it to.

We have made progress. But we must do more.

I am signing an imperfect omnibus bill because it is necessary for the ongoing functions of government. But I also view this as a departure point for more far-reaching change.

In my discussions with Congress, we have talked about the need for further reforms to ensure that the budget process inspires trust and confidence, not cynicism. So I believe as we move forward, we can come together around principles that prevent the abuse of earmarks.

These principles begin with a simple concept: earmarks must have a legitimate and worthy public purpose. Earmarks that members do seek must be aired on those members’ websites in advance, so the public and the press can examine them and judge their merit for themselves. And each earmark must be open to scrutiny at public hearings, where members will have to justify their expense to the taxpayer.

Next, any earmark for a for-profit private company should be subject to the same competitive bidding requirements as other federal contracts. The awarding of earmarks to private companies is the single most corrupting element of this practice, as witnessed by some of the indictments and convictions we have seen. Private companies differ from the public entities that Americans rely on every day – schools, police stations, fire departments – and if they are seeking taxpayer dollars, then they should be evaluated with a higher level of scrutiny.

Furthermore, it should go without saying that an earmark must never, ever be traded for political favors.

And finally, if my administration evaluates an earmark and determines that it has no legitimate public purpose, we will seek to eliminate it, and we will work with Congress to do so.

I know there are members in both houses with good ideas on this matter. Just this morning, the House released a set of recommendations for reform that hold great promise, and I congratulate them on that.

Now, I am calling on Congress to enact these reforms as the appropriations process moves forward this year. Neither I nor the American people will accept anything less.

It’s important that we get this done to ensure that the budget process works better, that taxpayers are protected, and that we save billions of dollars that we so desperately need to right our economy and address our fiscal crisis. Along with that reform, I expect future spending bills to be debated and voted on in an orderly way, and sent to my desk without delay or obstruction, so that we don’t face another massive, last-minute omnibus bill like this

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