Bipartisan Approach Can Help End Waste

This past week in Shelby County, I signed my name to the FreedomWorks earmark pledge.

In so doing, I promised to step away from the earmark process for the current appropriations cycle. This follows a decision I made in March not to submit earmark request to the Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Jim Cooper and I agree that Congress has allowed a system designed for members to responsibly meet the needs of their constituents to degenerate into a pathway to waste and corruption. This isn’t a problem that has its origins in partisan identity, but rather in hubris and a careless disregard some members of Congress share for how hard Americans work.

Many of our colleagues joined us in stepping away from the earmark process this year. For my part, I don’t wish to be associated with a system that is currently fatally corrupted. There is a point to be proven in our actions, as well: Members of Congress can responsibly serve their constituents without adding to the growing pile of discretionary federal spending.

Step back from current process
More members need to follow our lead and step away from the process. Until they do, and until Congress develops a structure to appropriately police itself, taxpayers will remain infuriated by reports of “Coconut Roads,” “Hippie Museums,” “Monuments to Me.”

Earmark abuse is not only a structural problem within Congress; it is also a judgment problem within Congress. Members can put an end to this madness, however, by fixing the problem and beginning to restore our constituents’ faith in congressional stewardship of taxpayers’ money.

Fortunately there is a simple solution to this problem. Members of Congress must immediately adopt a one-year moratorium on all earmark requests, and at the same time establish a bipartisan and bicameral panel to investigate abuse and recommend changes.

Time to develop some backbone
Members can then see the error of their ways, and address the identified problems with common-sense solutions. When the American people are satisfied that the legislative branch is ready to do its job free of corruption in an open, transparent process, we can then move ahead with the people’s business.

The Constitution dictates that Congress should be self-policing. It is time that members live up to the vision of the Founding Fathers, develop some backbone, and do the right thing. Proposals for enforcement from outside panels will, I fear, only be treated as yet another vehicle to end-run transparency. The virtue of serious self-policing is that it reflects a resolve in the chamber to do the right thing.

This is a simple, common-sense plan that will restore Americans’ faith in our ability to effectively manage the taxpayer dollar. I support this plan, and urge all members of the Tennessee delegation to do the same.