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CRS Finds Fewer Earmarks, Higher Cost

Congress cut the total number of appropriations earmarks between 2008 and 2009, but the total value of earmarks rose by nearly $2 billion, according to a new study by the Congressional Research Service.The Dec. 9 CRS report concluded that “From FY2008 to FY2009, the two complete years for which these data are available, the total number of appropriations earmarks decreased 6%, from 12,810 to 12,099. However, the total value of earmarks increased 6%, from $28.9 billion to $30.7 billion.—The report indicates that the number and value of earmarks decreased for most appropriations bills but increased in four bills: military construction and Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, financial services and general government, and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The report includes both “presidential earmarks— and Congressional earmarks, and cautions that because there is no consistent definition of “presidential earmarks— across appropriations bills, the number of presidential earmarks is uncertain.Presidential earmarks appear primarily in the Energy and water development bill and the military construction bill, where the administration has requested funding for specific projects. The transportation appropriations bill has almost no presidential earmarks.Interestingly, the value of earmarks as a percentage of total appropriations did not change between 2008 and 2009. “For both FY2008 and FY2009, 1.8% of the total appropriation for all 12 bills was earmarked, or 2.9% if mandatory appropriations are excluded,— the CRS concluded.In 2009, the CRS found 720 earmarks worth $4.8 billion that were requested by the president, with no Congressional sponsor, meaning that Members of Congress took credit for 11,379 earmarks worth about $25.9 billion. The nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense reported last week that the omnibus appropriations bill passed by the House contained 5,224 earmarks worth $3.9 billion. Added to the appropriations bills that have already passed, that brings the total for 2010 to 7,577 disclosed earmarks worth $5.994 billion, the group concluded. But those numbers do not include presidential earmarks or the Defense appropriations bill, which the CRS found carried just more than 2,000 earmarks worth $4.9 billion in 2009.

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