By Colin Clark
Editor, AOL Defense
WASHINGTON -- One of the Senate's top campaigners for good government is charging House Republicans with quietly loading their new defense policy bill with earmarks that are currently banned by the GOP's own rules.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has pledged to keep all earmarks out of the Republican version of the Defense Authorization Act. In a letter to Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the new chairman of the House committee, and its top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), the Missouri senator claims the proposed bill "has obviously been structured to circumvent the earmark ban adopted by the House of Representatives." And McCaskill writes that if she can't keep those earmarks out of the bill, she'll make each one public.
But the McKeon is having none of McCaskill's scorn.
"Her letter is more politics than substance," HASC spokesman Josh Holly wrote in an email to AOL Defense.
McKeon instituted changes to the traditional markup process for the policy bill: The draft bill from each subcommittee was made public 24 hours before the subcommittees met. And the draft of the final bill was also put online before the full committee met.
"In the words of the former Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), we would encourage the good Senator from the former chairman's home state to 'read the bill,'" Holly said. "All of the information which she claims was not provided to the public has been available on the committee's website throughout the process. In fact, this is the first time in decades that copies of the legislation were provided to the public ahead of the subcommittee and full committee markups."
"Neither exact dollar amounts nor intended recipients of the earmarks can be clearly discerned," McCaskill said in her letter. "Under the pre-moratorium rules, earmark requests were publicly posted and funded earmarks were listed in reports accompanying bills with the sponsor, amount and intended recipient all clearly detailed."
Holly's response: "It appears that Senator McCaskill was also unaware that all of the amendments in which she has issues were adopted in a public session of the Armed Services Committee. Additionally, every amendment that was considered by the committee -- not just those that were adopted -- were posted on our website within 24 hours of the conclusion of the full committee markup and made available to reporters at the time of the markup."
But McCaskill claims the House committee has proposed a billion dollar "slush fund" called the Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund, that would take money cut from other programs and consolidate it in the fund to pay for the "pet projects" inserted into the House defense policy bill.