WASHINGTON — Confronting the nation's mounting deficit, President Barack Obama is urging Congress to limit spending on pet home-state projects, while Republicans are challenging him to support an outright ban.
In his weekly radio and online address Saturday, Obama said that with the economy still struggling to recover from the recession, the nation cannot afford unnecessary spending on so-called earmarks, items lawmakers slip into spending bills without a full examination or debate.
"When it comes to signaling our commitment to fiscal responsibility, addressing them would have an important impact," Obama said from Asia, where he was wrapping up a 10-day trip.
However, Obama stopped short of calling for a full ban on earmarks, saying some of them "support worthy projects in our local communities." While he said steps must be taken to limit wasteful spending, he offered no specific proposals.
The top Republicans in the House, Reps. John Boehner of Ohio and Eric Cantor of Virginia, issued a joint statement welcoming Obama's remarks on earmark reform. But they also raised the stakes, challenging Obama to immediately agree to veto any spending bills that include earmarks.
"Washington has failed to prioritize the way that taxpayer dollars are spent, and shutting down the earmark process is a good first step to begin righting the ship," Boehner and Cantor said in the statement.
They said House Republicans, including all newly elected lawmakers, will vote next week on a measure that would ban earmarks when the new session of Congress starts in January.
In the Republicans' weekly address, Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon outlined the GOP's top priorities: creating jobs, cutting spending and reforming Congress.
Walden, who is running the GOP transition committee after the party's House takeover in the midterm elections, said plans are being made to make the legislative process more open, including the installation of cameras in the Rules Committee, where decisions are made on what bills and amendments come to the floor for a vote.