WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's top budget official, Peter Orszag, said the president will sign a $140 billion spending bill for this year despite a campaign pledge that he would reject tailored budget requests that let lawmakers send money to their home states.
It was the Washington equivalent of officials pinching their nose and swallowing a bitter pill.
"This is last year's business," Orszag said, offering an acknowledgment that Obama would sign a bill that doesn't conform with his campaign vows. "We want to just move on. Let's get this bill done, get it into law and move forward."
The House passed the measure last week. It would keep the government open for business through Sept. 30, when the federal budget year ends. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group, identified almost 8,600 earmarks totaling $7.7 billion; Democrats say the number is $3.8 billion.
Regardless of the precise number, it was still far more than Obama promised as a candidate. He refused earmarks for the economic stimulus package he championed, as well as a children's health bill.
"We're going to be working with the Congress. We want to make sure that earmarks are reduced and they're also transparent," said Orszag, who is director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Obama's top hands assigned responsibility to their predecessors and President George W. Bush. By blaming Bush-era proposals for deficits, Obama wanted to set up his own budget, which he unveiled last week with a bold proposal to cut the deficit by half within his four-year term with the budget that would start Oct. 1.