Can Obama curb Congressional pork projects?

I’m really not so sure. Many are of the thought the horse has left the barn, Elvis the building, and the pig is rolling in the slop.

During yesterday’s media show, Obama promised to ban, that’s right ban, all earmarks. My question right off the bat is what is his definition of an earmark?

… we’re going to have to stop talking about budget reform. We’re going to have to totally embrace it. It’s an absolute necessity.

And it has to begin with the economic recovery and reinvestment plan that Congress will soon be considering, that we’re going to be investing an extraordinary amount of money to jump-start our economy, save or create 3 million new jobs, mostly in the private sector, and lay a solid foundation for future growth.

But we’re not going to be able to expect the American people to support this critical effort unless we take extraordinary steps to ensure that the investments are made wisely and managed well. And that’s why my recovery and reinvestment plan will have – will set a new higher standard of accountability, transparency, and oversight.

We are going to ban all earmarks, the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review. We will create an economic recovery oversight board made up of key administration officials and independent advisers to identify problems early and make sure we’re doing all that we can to solve it. We will put information about where money is being spent online so that the American people know exactly where their precious tax dollars are going and whether we are hitting our marks.

When Obama states that we are going to ban all earmarks, it certainly sounds pretty good but the problem is that the Executive Branch does not have that power. Congress determines spending budgets, and all that Obama can do is veto legislation that has – again, what he defines as – earmarks.

Morrissey at Hot Air has more.

… Obama is only limiting his earmark ban to the recovery package, not overall — and even then, not entirely. Only those projects inserted without review count as earmarks. What constitutes “review”? A floor vote, or a discussion in committee among the porkers around the table? And even then, the only way Obama can get earmarks out would be to veto anything Congress presents to him with earmarks within it — and I doubt Obama would kill the centerpiece of his domestic economic agenda merely to make a point about a process he himself used repeatedly as a Senator. In fact, Obama never even mentioned a veto during the press conference.

I also find it highly revealing of the media attending this presser that not one reporter challenged Obama on his authority to deliver on that promise. It’s practically Con Law 101, or even high-school civics, and yet no one thought to wonder how Obama would “ban earmarks” as President. Pathetic.

Lindgren at Volokh Conspiracy agrees that any reduction in earmarks is a good thing, but Obama did not go as far as McCain did promising to eliminate them all together.

He notes Obama was specifically speaking about the current hot topic of the day – the next stimulus package – and not the everyday management of Washington.

… he [Obama] did pledge today to eliminate earmarks in the bill that might be the biggest pork-spending opportunity that Congress has ever considered — which is a major step. Just how much waste this move prevents will depend a lot on how the Obama administration chooses particular projects.

I’m willing to bet that plenty of Democrats on the hill – including John Murtha – are going to be getting what many conservatives call pork… earmarks… or whatever else that you want to call it.

The federal government is just involved in too much unconstitutional spending at the local level. Like I said, I’m afraid that horse has left the barn. What can we do?