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Dems Redefining Earmarks to Fulfill Obama's Pledge

9:55 AM, Jan 12, 2009 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have now both promised that the upcoming economic stimulus bill won't include any earmarks. Both have used Clintonian language to limit the scope of their promises, but that hasn't gotten all that much attention.

Barack Obama has said that the stimulus bill will contain no earmarks -- unless those earmarks get Congressional "review." And yesterday on CNN's Late Edition, Speaker Pelosi promised that there will be no earmarks "in the bill that passes the House" -- pointedly leaving open the possibility that earmarks will be inserted during Senate consideration, or when the House passes the likely conference report before it is sent to the president.

How strange that two of the three leaders involved in the process (we're awaiting comment from Harry Reid) would both leave huge loopholes in their "no earmark" promises. It's enough to make you think that there might really be earmarks. Roll Call makes clear today that there will be:

Artfully Redefining Earmarks

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...

The Majority Whip said he doesn't fault Obama for trying to eliminate earmarks from the bill. "I know the politics of all this. I just think they're wrong about it," he said, adding later, "I love earmarks."

At some point, Clyburn noted, there will be a list of projects funded by the package, and Members want to have input.

"The list is going to come from somewhere," he said.

So at the end of the day, it's unlikely that anti-pork crusaders will be able to find a list of projects tucked away into the text of the stimulus package. But it's just as certain that congressional Democrats will know exactly where the money is going to get spent -- and they'll be making sure their district get 'their fair share' before any bill is signed into law.

Just another object lesson in change, Washington style.