Wednesday, January 14, 2009

No Surprise Here

President-elect Barack Obama’s no-earmark mandate for the stimulus package has leading Democrats scrambling to find subtler ways to direct funding to their districts.

They may not be called earmarks, but lawmakers are looking to write legislative formulas into the package to ensure that their districts share in the wealth and won’t simply be at the mercy of Washington’s bureaucracy or the nation’s governors.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is leading the effort, personally lobbying Obama, top Obama adviser David Axelrod and committee chairmen on the issue last week. Clyburn said numerous Members, particularly freshmen, are concerned that they could sign on to a massive package with nothing to show for their districts.

Clyburn said the package can be written in such a way that governors have relatively little control over the money, and the funds can flow directly to local communities.

“The pro or con on earmarks I think missed the point,” Clyburn said. “Members are very concerned about going out in their Congressional districts and trying to get elected. ... They want to be sure their votes will respond to their constituents.”

“If you’re going to go out to take the flak to significantly expand the deficit and the debt, you’ve got to be able to say ... ‘This is what happened in our community.’”

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