House chairman calls for ban on earmarks in fiscal 2009 spending bills

The rest of the Democratic leadership have largely ignored the GOP's push for earmark reform.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., called for the suspension of all earmarks in fiscal 2009 appropriations bills and said Tuesday he would not make such requests this year.

"We have a problem in Congress," Waxman said in a statement that seemingly puts him in line with House Republican leaders on the issue. "Congressional spending through earmarks is out of control. I think our best approach would be to suspend all earmarks for the 2009 appropriations cycle while we consider the right reforms for the earmark process. As a result I will not submit any requests to the Appropriation Committee for this fiscal year."

Waxman praised the "real progress" made by Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wisc., in cutting earmarks in fiscal 2008 appropriations bills by 30 percent. But, he added, too many questionable projects were still being funded.

While he did not directly address the call from Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, for a moratorium on lawmakers requesting earmarks so a bipartisan task force can review ways to reform the process, Waxman's declaration places him at odds with the Democratic leaders. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the rest of the Democratic leadership have largely ignored the GOP's rhetoric, dismissing it as not a real effort at reform.

Republicans were quick to welcome one of the most reform-minded Democrats to their side of the issue.

"I'm glad to see that a senior Democrat like Chairman Waxman has realized that the earmark reform measures that House Democrats have enacted are completely inadequate," said a Boehner spokesman.

While Boehner's office has been gung-ho on the GOP earmark reform plan as a means to get back in touch with its fiscally conservative base, some in House GOP circles do not see the effort as a winning one for House Republicans. They point out that lawmaker-directed earmarks actually represent less than 1 percent of the federal budget.

Boehner launched a Web site today to tout the GOP's earmark efforts. The site is at