Count this among the very few things an Obama speech has brought to fruition that I'm enthusiastically behind:
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and a bipartisan group of Senators will propose legislation Tuesday to create a new, centralized earmark database to provide the public with more consistent and accessible information on earmark requests.
The bill — the Earmark Transparency Act — would require the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate to create a searchable, publicly available website that would include all “congressionally directed spending items” including appropriations earmarks, limited tax benefits and specific project authorizations. The bill would also establish uniform reporting requirements for each item, including the name of the beneficiary, the amount requested and the amount approved in a final bill, and whether the request was funded in prior years.
Members are already required to post information about the earmarks they request, but this bill is meant to standardize and centralize the process, making it easier for taxpayers to track the sometimes ludicrous projects. Feingold, McCain, and Gillibrand are co-sponsoring.
Coburn says the bill is a response to my favorite line from Obama's State of the Union— his call to "continue down the path of earmark reform ... publish all earmark requests on a single website before there’s a vote,
so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.”
Now comes the part where he has to stand up for that goal. Although, given his ability to persuade the American people on matters of legislation thus far, it's hard to say whether you'd want his vocal support, even on something as popular as earmark reform.