Fiscal panel poised to target earmarks

By Walter Alarkon -The Hill

At its final public meeting, the White House fiscal commission on Wednesday pledged to target pork-barrel spending as one part of a plan to cut into massive deficits.

“If anybody thinks they’re going to get out of this unscathed, they’re wrong,” said former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), the commission’s co-chairman.

The commission, whose goal is to produce a plan to cut trillion-dollar deficits to sustainable levels by 2015, said such spending doesn’t make political or fiscal sense because of the country’s debt, which stands at $13.5 trillion.

“Our problem is we’ve put parochial concerns ahead of the long-term interests of the country,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), one of the more vocal members of the panel.

“We could actually start a trend … so we could all be dedicated to be trying to do the best right thing for the long term in the country in the whole,” Coburn added.

But while indicating they would crack down on earmarks, commission members acknowledged the resistance they’ll face.

“We have particular interests, each and every one of us,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.). “When it’s time to take on your interest, it’s OK. When it’s time to take on my interest, no way.”

A group of lobbyists and public-interest advocates, including Public Citizen and Taxpayers for Common Sense, is pushing to reform the earmark process in the face of an assault on it from Congress and leaders of both parties. They want to clean up the process, rather than scrap it, arguing that getting rid of earmarks would give the executive branch too much control over spending authority.

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