Begich Finds Unlikely Ally for ‘Orphaned Earmark Bill’

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

Senator Mark Begich has paired up with an unlikely ally:  conservative Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.  The Republican is totally opposed to earmarks and other spending projects that Alaska thrives on, and has personally blocked legislation because it included specially allocated funding bound for Alaska.

But the two have found common cause in trying to kill what are called “orphaned earmarks,” earmarks that were given out but never actually spent.

The duo says rescinding orphaned earmarks could save more than $500 million.

They have introduced a bill to take back earmarks that are 90 percent unused after nine years, giving agencies 12 more months to use the money or it goes back to the treasury.

Senator Begich said on the Senate floor Monday that while he still defends the use of earmarks, if the money isn’t being used, it shouldn’t sit out of reach.

The newspaper “USA Today” did an analysis last month that showed Alaska has lost more than $187 million in the past two decades because of earmarked money that hasn’t been spent.  That’s because when funds are earmarks for specific highway projects, it often lowers the amount states receive from the feds.

Senator Coburn says their “orphaned earmark bill” is one small bipartisan step toward reducing the national debt.

Another Senator, Democrat Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, has his own bill to deal with orphaned earmarks, it specifically goes after highway earmarks, and has a tighter three-year time limit.  It would return the money to the states, not the treasury like Begich & Coburn’s.

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