Accuracy in Media

In a White House press conference yesterday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked a question about the omnibus spending bill and the 9,000 earmarks contained. Note, a number of those earmarks were placed into the bill by some of President Obama’s senior staff, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and Vice President Joe Biden. Here’s how the Q&A panned out:

REPORTER: A quick follow on the omnibus.  Last week it was pointed out that a couple of Cabinet secretaries, LaHood and Mrs. Solis, have earmarks in this omnibus from last year, leftover funding.  Now it’s also been learned that Vice President Biden has — I think it’s $750,000 for the University of Delaware satellite station, and Rahm Emanuel $900,000 for the Chicago Planetarium.

Since the President talked so much about earmarks in the campaign, and as President, about keeping them out of the stimulus — I know this is leftover business from last year — but as something that he is either going to sign or veto, why not have earmarks that come from his administration essentially at least taken out to set — send a signal, number one?  And number two, is he — is there any chance he’ll veto this bill and send it back and say, get these earmarks out; there’s over 9,000 of them?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think you saw remarks this weekend by the chief of staff and the budget director about the legislation.  Obviously the President is concerned, despite the progress that has been made in this town, about the size and the scope of earmarks that we’ve seen over the past few years.  I think even the most cynical among us would have to at least acknowledge that the number of overall earmarks has been cut.

I think it’s important to recognize that a piece of legislation probably twice the size of the piece of legislation that you’re asking me about was passed through Congress at the President’s direction without earmarks.  This is the finishing up of last year’s appropriations legislation.

And I think what’s most important and what the President would tell you is important here is that though he doesn’t control everything that happened before he became President of the United States, that dozens and dozens and dozens of appropriations bills will go through Congress and come to his desk over the course of the next four years.  And —

REPORTER: But this incremental reform you’re talking —

MR. GIBBS: Hold on.  Well, hold on.  The President you will see and hear outline a process of dealing with this problem in a different way, and that the rules of the road going forward for those many appropriations bills that will go through Congress and come to his desk will be done differently.

REPORTER: So he’ll have a new standard that he’s going to lay out for the appropriations bills that will come to his desk that are actually written while he’s President?

MR. GIBBS: Yes, sir.

REPORTER: And when is this?

MR. GIBBS: Soon.

If I’m not mistaken, President Obama made a campaign pledge to do away completely with earmarks, NOT to slowly phase them out. It goes without saying that it sets a terrible example to Congress and the American people when the president’s staff is given special priviledge to break a many times repeated campaign promise.

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