Congress still has not passed a budget resolution or any of the 12 appropriations bills for the current fiscal year, and its Continuing Resolution expires Dec. 3. Another item of unfinished business: Deciding whether to extend the Bush tax cuts set to expire Dec. 31.
Last week Republicans agreed to ban earmarks during the 112th Congress. Earmarks provide special funding to certain states or congressional districts, often for narrow purposes. According to the President's fiscal commission, earmarks in FY 2010 totaled about $16 billion -- only a small fraction of the $3.5 trillion budget. Predictably, proposed exemptions for things like transportation infrastructure have quickly appeared.
While any serious attempt to reduce unnecessary spending is a positive step, significant deficit reduction will require much more than a ban on earmarks. If Congress does move forward with a ban, it should not be weakened with gimmicks and exemptions.