Often decried by Republicans in the past, earmarking actually increased substantially after the GOP captured the congressional majorities in the 1990s. This fact was often cited among the ethics exposures of the Republican majority when it was dethroned in 2006.
Since then the issue of earmarking, especially the sneakier versions subject to little notice and less review, has become part of the assault on the restored Democratic majority in Congress. Republican Sen. John McCain made it a hallmark of his campaign for president in 2008.
This month, with the House ethics committee sorting through various cases of alleged corruption in earmarking -- and with House Democrats eager to counter the bad optics of freshman Rep. Eric Massa's flameout on unrelated issues -- new efforts to rein in the earmark have emerged.
Rep. David Obey, the venerable chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Norm Dicks, the successor to Murtha as chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said there would be no more earmarks on behalf of for-profit companies. House Republicans, not to be outdone, countered by saying there should be a moratorium on earmarks of all kinds, including those for nonprofits, schools or other governmental entities.
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