1. Archive


President Bush often denounces the propensity of Congress to earmark money for pet projects. But in his new budget, Bush seeks money for thousands of similar projects.

He asked for money to build fish hatcheries, eradicate agricultural pests, conduct research, pave highways, dredge harbors and do many other local tasks.

The details are buried in the president's budget, just as most congressional earmarks are buried in obscure committee reports that accompany spending bills.

Thus, for example, the president requested $330-million to deal with plant pests like the emerald ash borer, the light brown apple moth and the sirex woodwasp. He sought $800,000 for the Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Missouri and $1.5-million for a waterway named in honor of former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, D-La.

The projects, itemized in thousands of pages of budget documents submitted last week to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, show that the debate over earmarks is much more complex than the "all or nothing" choice usually presented to the public. The president and Congress both want to direct money to specific projects, but often disagree over the merits of particular items.

The White House contends that when the president requests money for a project, it has gone through a rigorous review - by the agency, the White House or both - using objective criteria.

Congressional leaders said they would focus more closely on items requested by the president this year. "The executive branch should be held accountable for its own earmark practices," said the House Republican leader, Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio.


What are earmarks?

The White House defines "earmarks" in a way that applies only to projects designated by Congress, not the administration.

"Earmarks," as defined by the White House, "are funds ... for projects or programs where the congressional direction circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the executive branch to properly manage funds."