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Senator-Elect Toomey Joins Democratic Senator McCaskill in Bipartisan Effort to Stop Wasteful Spending

Allentown – Two weeks after Election Day, Senator-Elect Pat Toomey is already demonstrating his bipartisan leadership in the fight against wasteful government spending.  Today, Senator-Elect Toomey published an op-ed with Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in USA Today calling for an end to the earmark system. Please read the op-ed below.
USA Today: McCaskill, Toomey: Era of earmarks must end
By Claire McCaskill and Pat Toomey
November 16, 2010
In the sharply divided political environment that is Washington, it is rare to find an issue that cuts across party lines the way earmarks do. Over the years, some of the most fervent opponents of the earmark system have made for some of the most curious partnerships.
That is exactly what some might call us — a Democratic senator from Missouri and the Republican senator-elect from Pennsylvania. Sure, we probably disagree on more things than we agree, but when it comes to the important issue of cutting wasteful federal spending and changing “business as usual” in Washington, we could not be more in sync.
Unfortunately, opposition to reforming the earmark system is just as bipartisan.
This week, as Republicans consider an intra-party ban on earmarks, we have heard many passionate arguments in favor of the earmark system from both sides of the aisle.
Some have argued that that these earmarked projects slipped into spending bills are worthwhile — and some of them are. But the very process is designed and exists for the purpose of avoiding the appropriate scrutiny of federal spending. The purpose of the earmark is to empower an individual politician with the opportunity to spend money at his sole discretion, without subjecting the project to the normal scrutiny or any type of competitive process. And this lack of scrutiny and competition is the reason taxpayers are forced to fund such ridiculous and wasteful projects ranging from Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere” to what amounted to a politician’s monument to himself.
Some have argued that abolishing earmarks won’t save any money — the money currently spent on earmarks will simply be spent by bureaucrats or the administration. But the executive branch can’t spend a dime that isn’t authorized by Congress. So the money spent on earmarks can be saved at Congress’ discretion.
We have to start somewhere
Still, others have argued that these savings don’t amount to much money — only a few billion dollars at most. But that argument reveals a mentality that lies at the heart of our spending problem. Washington must be the only place in America where people talk about billions of dollars like they are talking about pennies.
There is only one way to start reining in federal spending and getting our fiscal house in order and that is to start somewhere. In fiscal year 2010, earmarks totaled almost $16 billion. That is $16 billion of taxpayer money we could have saved.
Worse, earmarks are used as political currency. There is an unwritten rule in Washington: If you get your piece of pork in a spending bill, you are obligated to vote for the entire bill regardless of how wasteful, bloated and unaffordable that bill might be. Every member of Congress knows that a “no” vote will threaten his or her tiny piece of the earmark pie.
It is this “I scratch your back — you scratch mine” mentality that has contributed to our country’s runaway spending problem. And it is precisely this process that has angered Americans.
How many times do voters have to send a message in order for politicians in Washington — Republicans and Democrats alike — to finally start listening?
A bipartisan plea: Pass the ban
Tuesday, Republicans will vote on a conference rule banning earmarks for the coming year, but we believe that this new discussion presents an opportunity for both parties to demonstrate that they have heard the voters’ message and are taking it to heart. President Obama has already signaled his support for a ban on earmarks, and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has thrown his support behind the measure as well. We hope the Republicans will pass the ban in their caucus Tuesday, and that the Democratic caucus follows suit. Ending the practice of earmarking should mark a first, common-sense critical step in changing the ways of Washington, cutting wasteful spending and proving Washington has gotten the message Americans have delivered.
This issue need not be a partisan one, and we are encouraged that Republicans and Democrats have joined together, both in the past and now, in opposing the earmark system. Cross-party alliances often make for the most effective partnerships, and we are confident we can make real progress if we focus on what is best for taxpayers, not what is best for the politicians in Washington.
Sen. Claire McCaskill is a Democrat from Missouri. Sen.-elect Pat Toomey is a Republican from Pennsylvania.

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