Vice President-elect Joe Biden stressed on Tuesday that there would be no pet projects for lawmakers included in the stimulus bill that Barack Obama will sign upon taking office.
This piece of news, from the pool report on Biden's meeting with economic advisers, is a proverbial throwing down of the gauntlet to members of Congress.
"It's important for the American taxpayer to know that it's not - and I want emphasize this having served many years in the Senate -- this is not going to be politics as usual. And we will not tolerate business as usual in Washington. There will be -- I will say it again -- there will be no earmarks in this economic recovery plan. I know it's Christmas. I know it's the Christmas season. But President-elect Obama and I are absolutely determined that this economic recovery package will not become a Christmas tree. Every dollar will be watched to be sure it's used in an effective manner. We'll spend what we need to turn this economy around and no more. The American taxpayer deserves to know that his or her tax dollars are going be used wisely. And the American worker needs to know that help is actually on the way."
The Obama-Biden team has, in the past, stressed an anti-earmark message, especially on the campaign trail. But efforts to exclude pork from a potentially $1 trillion stimulus could be challenging. The bill will not be subjected to congressional pay-go rules. And sources on the Hill stress that members of Congress won't just hand over a blank check to the Obama administration without having a say in the legislation's construct. At the same time, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, Obama's transition team "points out that congressional leaders have vowed to keep the stimulus bill devoid of earmarks."
Regardless, the stimulus seems likely to be subject to stricter levels of transparency than financial packages and bailouts in the past -- even with the unprecedented sum of money likely to be spent. Larry Summers, one of the President-elect's top economic advisers and incoming head of the National Economic Council, vowed that there would even be Internet monitoring tools to track the spending.