OMB to agencies: No more pork

OMB memo on earmarks

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:35 a.m. Feb. 21, 2007. Please go to Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

Federal departments operating under the current continuing resolution should not spend money on earmarks that are not in legislation in fiscal 2007, Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman said in a memo to agency heads late last week.

President Bush last week signed a $463.5 billion 2007 full-year joint resolution that included a moratorium on earmarks. The resolution replaced three previous short-term continuing resolutions and appropriated funds for agencies under 10 spending bills this year.

Lawmakers removed 9,300 earmarks included in the 2007 spending bills, including many “pork barrel spending” appropriations listed in accompanying reports, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, had said.

Congress has approved spending bills for two agencies, including the Defense and Homeland Security departments. The rest of the agencies will work under the just-passed continuing resolution with some additions.

Under the new legislation, earmarks from 2006 have “no legal effect,” Portman said. “Unless a project or activity is specifically identified in statutory text, agencies should not obligate funds on the basis of earmarks contained in congressional reports or documents, or other written or oral communications regarding earmarks.”

The memo emphasized that agencies should not fund projects based on pressure from lobbyists or other interested parties, but funds should be expended only where the resolution “grants authority in law” or where there are “other authorities in statutes to provide this funding.”

In addition, “each agency shall use transparent and merit-based determinations to achieve program objectives,” said Portman. “In short, funding decisions should be based on the merits, in accordance with the law.”

However, Portman’s memo may have little effect on agencies and lawmakers because “even if it’s not in the legislation, it won’t stop a member of Congress from cutting a deal,” said Stan Collender, managing director at Qorvis Communications.


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