So, you might recall that in March, amid much fanfare, Congressional Republicans declared a one-year moratorium on all earmarks emanating from the GOP.
So, one can understand why House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) is a tad perplexed by what he is seeing as he ramps up towards creating a new Water Resources Development Act (emphasis mine):
Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar sent letters to 116 Republicans on Thursday asking whether they intend to be bound by the House GOP moratorium on earmarks and want him to disregard their requests for projects in the Water Resources Development Act.
In preparation for a new WRDA bill, 354 House Members — including 120 Republicans — submitted project requests to the committee last summer. The WRDA bill includes projects such as dam and levee replacements, beach replenishment, drainage upgrades and water treatment facilities.
Now, in fairness to the House Republicans, those requests predated by several months the Conference directive to eschew all earmarks.
The problem is, however, that the flock of Republicans that had submitted project requests have not exactly flocked to Oberstar begging for their projects to be scuttled. In fact, out of the 100+ members of the GOP that had submitted requests, the number that have sought out Oberstar to have them removed from consideration stands at...four.
Oberstar wrote Thursday that he has heard from only four Republicans asking that their requests be withdrawn, and "several Republican Members have told me that they do not intend to comply with the House Republican Conference earmark moratorium and will not withdraw their project requests."
The Minnesota Democrat said he plans to move ahead with a WRDA markup in the near future, and he is proceeding under the assumption that any request that has not been withdrawn is still live.
A spokesman for the House GOP made a statement last night, arguing that the vast majority of their conference had submitted documentation to the ranking minority member on the committee (Florida Congressman John Mica) making clear their withdrawal requests. If true, one would assume that they will respond likewise to Oberstar's request for clarification.
If not, then we are being treated to yet another example of political theater masquerading as fiscal austerity.