tv Washington Journal Thomas Schatz CSPAN January 13, 2018 8:04am-8:37am EST
remain in effect for several years afterwards. >> american history tv, every weekend on c-span3. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service i am america's cable television companies, and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. "washington journal" continues. host: joining us now is thomas schatz, president of citizens against government waste. he is here to talk about the possibility of congress bringing back your marks after a comment -- earmarks, after a comment made by president trump last week. remind our viewers what is citizens against government waste. guest: it was founded in 1984
following a commission on president reagan. since then, we have been and covering and exposing -- uncovering and exposing government waste. host: how are you funded? solely by individuals, companies, associations, no government monday. host: this conversation about earmarks is a response to a comment the president made. >> our system lends itself to not getting things done. i hear so much about earmarks, the old earmark system, how there was a great friendliness that they had other problems with earmarks. maybe all of you should start thinking back to going back to a form of earmarks. -- you should do it. i am there with you, because the system really lends itself to not getting along. it lends itself to hostility and
anger and they hate the republicans or they hate the democrats, and in the old days of earmark, you could say what you want about certain presidents where they all talk about they went out to dinner at night and they all got along and passed bills come a that was an earmark system. 80 we should think about it and put better patrol -- maybe we should think about it and put better controls because it got a little out of hand. our system, the way it is set i think you should look at a form of earmarks. i see lindsay nodding very happily yes. a lot of the pros say if you want to get along and if you want to get this country rolling again, you have to look at a different form, because this is obviously out of control. host: what were your initial thoughts about the president's comments? guest: he is not the first want to talk about earmarks. it is being brought up because
the house rules committee is holding a meeting on thursday because the house, or the first time since the earmark moratorium was extended in 2011, did not extend it. it was already a discussion around capitol hill about restoring earmarks. i think the president is expressing frustration, as a lot of people have, with the fact that there is a lot of bipartisanship and things are not getting done. it has nothing to do with earmarks. earmarks would make the problem worse. they are corrupt and would cause more spending, not less. host: give us a little bit of the history of earmarks, how they were used in the past and why congress moved to do away with them. guest: a lot of people are talking about the article one power of the purse and that is basic earmarking.
members of congress would be sitting there dividing this money for their own purposes and districts. earmarking exploded after newt gingrich told the appropriations committee, who fund projects in -- 12 years later, earmarks reached $29 billion. the year before that, 2005 with the highway bill with the bridge to nowhere, $24 billion in earmarks, and then the republicans lost their majority. two thirds of the republicans have been elected since 2010 and do not know about earmarks, but were elected in part because they were not around. host: how much support do you think there will be for the idea of bringing them back just for the reasons that the president stated? guest: one of the arguments being made is that it should only be for the army corps of
engineers or the imperial of reclamation, other water or infrastructure projects. you cannot limit earmarks to one particular area of spending. those twot it for agencies, how about all the other agencies? there is no way to control it. speaker ryan, when the house republican conference met after the election, saul there was some possibility that republicans could actually vote to bring back earmarks. swampier manyng earmarks. there is nothing -- that is why this is become such a big issue. we need to have some public discussion about it, but i think it would be a terrible mistake. i think the republicans generally are not in great shape this year. this would make it even worse. if all the taxpayers are up an
uproar over these comments. host: we are talking to citizens against government waste president thomas schatz about the possibility of returning earmarks to congress. democrats can call (202) 748-8000, republicans, (202) 748-8001, and independents, (202) 748-8002. you mentioned speaker ryan. this week, he sat down with steve scully and talked about earmarks. >> i was one of the guys who authored the ban on earmarks. among our frustration members that the responsibility of the person has been ceded to the executive branch to bring much. i have concerns about the old had,armark process we which i helped stop. i do believe there is a concern about having more legislative branch oversight on how the executive branch spends money.
we have got to make sure we do not go back to porkbarrel spending. >> do you wonder if earmarks came back, it could hurt the numbers in the house? >> no, i worry it will lead to porkbarrel spending and bad government. host: your reaction? guest: thank you, mr. speaker, for making the same point we are making. i worked with him many years ago. the president's cabinet, the vice president, attorney general sessions, and others who have served in congress ran an ad on earmarks and they do not want your marks either. if this is a trial, but we should not forget what happened in the past, corruption of members of staff that went to jail. congress -- the 81th congress,
appropriators, house and senate, 15% of congress and 51% of the earmarks and 61% of the money. the argument numbers are making is it is the executive branch's fault. the appropriations and transportation committees will get the money. is oversight committee absolutely appropriate and congress needs to do more oversight. if they do not like how the executive branch is spending money, they should authorize more and do more. many have not been authorized, meaning formally set up to continue in business. it gets funded, but technically they are supposed to be authorized. that is the big oversight that congress is not doing. if you do not like the way the army corps of engineers is spending money, fix that whole process.
then the army corps can only spend money when congress tells them to. host: sammy is on the democratic line from kinston, north carolina. caller: good morning. the city councilman in north carolina, in the last 15 years we have had two major floods and lost about 700 homes. we had a meeting with the north carolina emergency management team, and everybody in the past was talking about, fema would replace people's lost homes and all that, and i thought about the issue of the army corps of engineers. it is a learned in the last 15 years with two major floods? nothing.r was, they know that they need to dredge the rivers, they need to
build dams and things like that. people always say you have got to have studies, epa studies that take years and years. we could have had several peoples, and some of the in the audience said it is poor spending. the army corps of engineers needs to do more long-range thinking. when you have two major floods in 15 years. host: what do you think about that? guest: in 2014, the house passed a border resources and redevelopment act and they did a lot of work to streamline the process to eliminate the duplication and overlap, to defund projects that had not been funded and free up projects like sammy is talking about. that is something again, congress took action.
it may not be exactly the projects he is talking about, they are trying to get things done more effectively. an authorization bill that fixes the problem of the army corps of engineers. host: according to "politico," there is action on this very issue of earmarks. publicans on the house rules committee plan to revive the debate over earmarks in hearings launched next week, as members of their own party blast the band practice as a symbol of the washington swamp. rules chairman pete sessions has assured members that the hearings are not intended to rush into a new policy. the committee will hold its first meeting on january 8 -- 18th for members and another on january 19 to bring in outside groups, according to a source familiar with the plans. what are you hoping to see and get across during these hearings? guest: just as a point, i am
testifying on the 18th, so it must that changes, that is not quite accurate. whatever it is, it is a good opportunity for a group like ours and other groups to make sure the members of congress remember why this process was banned in the first place. we as citizens against government waste, issue an annual report. a very troubling find here was the return of earmarking for the save america's treasures program, 5 million dollars. members do not stick those projects in their districts. those are the museums and opera houses that got members in trouble. a former congressman lost his job over that type of earmarking. that is what the speaker is talking about. when the president says it was out of control, you cannot bring it under control because in
washington, once you start spending somewhere you will just keep spending more. host: you talked about the pig book which you can find on the website, agw.org. how has that book changed after the official ban of earmark spending? we say there are still projects that are essentially earmarked. what is your definition? guest: we have a seven point criteria that was developed with members of the congress, the congressional pork elders -- busters commission. then it went to $29 billion in 2006, a record and that in turn helped lead to the transparency, where members have the names and the backs of the appropriation bill, and even that was not enough. when the republicans won the majority in 2010, they agreed to a moratorium on earmarks.
that is not a ban, which is why we are here today. senator toomey had a bill to permanently ban earmarks. that has never been brought up in the senate. host: the introduction to this pork bellybook says spending is alive and well in washington, d.c., and goes on to say that members of congress federally ramped up the use of earmarks in each year since the moratorium. the book exposes -- discloses 63 earmarks. what sort of projects are we talking about? guest: we are talking about something like the east-west center in hawaii, $5.1 million. we have the name of the senator has he took credit for it, and he has done this for years. this was a project the state department did not want.
$5 million for the asia foundation. it is a troubling trend because i think it is also getting members to think, we have a few of these, why don't we just do some more? we heard frustration from the caller. the has always been an area where members have added earmarks and basically why they did not fix the problem in north carolina. numbers take them and the appropriators get a majority of the number of earmarks and the money, and put them in their own districts. it may not cost more overall but it takes away. host: ron is on the republican line from san clemente, california. caller: good morning. i like your new hairdo. tom, i have been receiving your pig report for many years. this all started really in earnest with the bridge to nowhere in alaska. then we wound up with airport
designs for places that had no location for aircraft to land, or designations. the guy that really started this was probably robert byrd, who wanted to build bridges and dams and stuff that had nothing to do with anything but build some work for his people in west virginia. he was professional at that and did a great job, however he was in charge of the senate for many years. the point is that there are what we call writers to bills that we are used to being part of the process. writeriter to a bill -- to a bill was attached -- rider to a bill was attached it had to be voted on. the bottom line of this whole story about earmarks is that they are not just getting out of hand. they are always out of hand. however, i will say this.
it is the fault of the appropriations committee from the beginning because for example, in newport beach, california, they have to renew their dredging -- to pay for the dredging of the harbor every single year. what kind of an insane concept is that? they are always going to have to drain rivers and dams and so on. these things should be built into the appropriations committee in my opinion. host: let's give tom a chance to bond. guest: i will mention senator byrd. we used to have a page on our droppings,rd's because so much of west virginia was named after him. it was a statue in the capital with his hand out and everyone said he was reaching for money. host: talk a little bit more about some of the earmarks we have seen in history that you think are some of the most
egregious, and what if any consequences have lawmakers faced. guest: i mentioned the teapot museum, 500,000 dollars for a teapot museum in north carolina that was never built. the money for the indoor rain forest in iowa, never built. a lot of these projects have a requirement that the state should match the funds. the indoor rain forest was supposed to be in coralville and the town did not want to spend the money to do it, and then it never happened. there are a lot of examples like that. the study of goth culture in blue string -- blue springs, missouri, they thought that kids close is not affecting people in their community. this is a good example of why these products do not get the merit taste peer-reviewed -- based peer-reviewed. the agencies follow the
statutory requirements that congress sets forward in the authorization bills and the appropriations bills. if they do not like how it is going, they do not like how the money is being spent, they can go back and solve that problem by fixing what it says in the statute. that is the article one power of the purse. host: has any member ever gone overboard, gone to jail over earmark spending? guest: congressman randy cunningham went to jail and just got out in 2013. ,ongressman bob nee from ohio the chairman of the house administration committee. and then of course the infamous lobbyist jack abram off -- abramov. host: mike is calling on our independent line from oak growth, missouri. caller: good morning.
you are looking nice today. when i want to mention, i don't really know whole lot about earmarks per se, but i noticed that your guest there is against government waste spending. i want to know about donald trump spending all his time at mar-a-lago at $3 million a trip, on the people's money. earmarks cannot be worse than that, can it? the presidential right to spend $3 million anytime he wants to go golfing? does the citizens against government waste have a position? guest: we have not criticized presidential travel. the interesting thing is that the budget is very difficult to find. there is no line items. some of it is for security
reasons, but the money is spread against several agencies. we have the same criticism for congressional travel. nobody will be like harry truman with an apartment on connecticut avenue. that does not happen. host: the washington post suggests perhaps the president made his comments about earmarks because he does not understand history. remember the bridge to nowhere that congress earmarked $220 million to link a remote alaska town to even more remote islands? there were small but just as memorable abuses. senator richard burr got a half $1 million for a teapot museum in a town of 18,000. do you think perhaps the president does not have enough institutional memory of how the earmarks went wrong? guest: the designation for who
got the teapot museum is incorrect. you need to pay attention to this stuff. what the president said and other members of congress have said, and i am sure he had conversations with them, he is saying what they are saying. they do not necessarily remember, or they think they can control it. the major effort is being made by representative john culberson , on the appropriations committee and tom really of florida. he made it clear that he wants money for -- and it is not about the country. it is about the projects in those districts. that is why it can never be fully controlled and merit-based. host: pat on our republican line from michigan, good morning. caller: good morning. my comment may be a very naive idea, but ever since we heard about earmarks, and i have heard
of all the ones that mr. schatz has mentioned, i have wondered about how they could solve this. the only idea i came up with, why can't the speaker of the house guarantee to any member who is against a bill and has no real good reason, why can't he promised him that if there is a bill that he is interested in passing, that the speaker of the house would guarantee that that bill would be brought up at the house, discussed, debated, and voted on as a replacement for earmarks. host: what do you think? guest: i think there's a process . i do not think the speaker should be dictator. certainly, speaker ryan has been far from that and has been very fair in allowing the committed is to do their work. .- committees to do their work it is one of the reasons he did
not put his foot down and express it. i think he has been a very fair -- has been very fair about the whole process. you cannot say we're just going to do it. it was never more than 1% of all discretionary spending. the 29 billion dollars was a little over 1% of the total discretionary spending. that is not entitlements, social security, or medicare. they are arguing over a tiny piece of's dish of federal spending. -- a federal spending. when they say the agencies do not know what they are doing, our response is earmark everything. for 99% of what gets spent, those through this authorization and appropriations process and it is not earmarked, and the country have survived fine since the earmark moratorium.
purpose is pretty much self-serving, and i hope that is the kind of information that will come out of the hearing and convince members who may not recall what happened -- and president trump is not the only one who was not here at that time. it sounds good but it is not so good. host: shelley is on our independent line for montana. caller: good morning, how are you? guest: good morning. host: go ahead. caller: i just wanted to put out there, i have been a taxpayer, registered voter for years. withed to stay up-to-date news -- try to stay up-to-date with news, and i think government from local counties, state, and federal, is all dirty. laws puttons of dumb jobshere, and down -- dumb
that they put out there. i live in a small town in central montana, and they just enacted a law to pave six miles of a county road, dirt road, at a cost of $3.5 million. like i said, i just think it is rampant everywhere. host: what is your reaction? true, i think that may be although i argue that state and local governments are closer to the people and have more interest in control over it, especially when it comes to things like education and property taxes. you can see the results in front of you. it is much more difficult to see what the federal government might be doing, which is why it may be easier for members of congress to say, we will help you. when they do those ribbon-cutting ceremonies, 99% of the money is gone through
without being earmarked so taxpayers do not know if it is an earmark or not. members love to take credit for these kinds of things. senator al d'amato used to be called senator pothole. he would just be everywhere, every time there was a project he would try to take credit for it. i worked for a member from new york at that time and every time he would try to do something senator d'amato would say, can i join you? host: have earmarks ever been beneficial? is there a way to perhaps regulate them as opposed to getting rid of them? thet: you cannot substitute judgment of the agencies and appropriations committees. a professor of university of virginia has put out several reports, and noted that in fiscal year 2006 there was 33,000 requests from members of congress through the appropriations committee, only in the house.
what do you want? is appropriations committee not as large as the entire executive branch so there is no way to make this work. host: chris is on our republican line from silver spring, maryland. caller: good morning, how are you? the continuing budget process, it seems like a lot of the regular appropriations processes are up in the air, so a lot of times when they are trying to pass tells or legislation -- bills or legislation, they will do something like the missouri compromise. i was wondering if trump is in a [inaudible} cows likeacred education and your social services. i understand like social 15 homeland a march
security building they found 6 million people over the age of 112 that were still on the social security rolls. don't they have a good auditing process? i understand the military is undergoing an auditing process for the first time in a long time. guest: the art of the department of the -- department of defense -- audit of the department of defense is the last to be done. oversight, generally government waste is a much larger problem. just talk -- this is why just talking about earmarks is not enough. there is so much more going on with the federal government. has acountability office report every year and they should be hearings on those every day. host: thomas schatz, president of citizens against government waste. you can found more on the group at cagw.org, and you can find
him on twitter. coming up next, we will be taking your calls. tell us what is on your mind. democrats can call (202) 748-8000. republicans, (202) 748-8001. an independents, (202) 748-8002. newsmakers interviewed the number two democrat in the house , steny hoyer of maryland, who talked with reporters about this year's midterm elections. are you seeing the elements of an electoral wave coming, and would it be a disappointment at this point if democrats cannot retake the house later this year? >> i expect us to retake the house, the majority, and i do so because i think the environment is such that the american people are looking for some stability, looking for some focus on the issues that they care about in terms of jobs, education, health
care, the environment, and in terms of our national security. i think dave you democrats as being able to provide some stability to our country, and very frankly, a proper check and balance in our system when we see a president who is -- has trouble creating stability within the white house, much less within our government. so i am very positive, i think we are going to take back the house. we see all over the country a real enthusiasm and energy in the democratic base. we see a republican party that i think in many respects, expects to lose control of the house of representatives. i do not think any of them would say that, and in private conversations with some of my republican colleagues and friends, they say, you guys are going to take that the house. we have excellent candidates throughout the country. charlie cook says there are 91
districts in play. when we had two retirements this week of republicans, charlie cook was one of the prognosticators, but a bipartisan and concerned about the rightness of his judgments, says that both of those districts that republicans are now retiring in will lean democratic. we need to pick up 24 of those 91 seats and i think we will pick up more than that. we see not only members retiring in higher numbers on the republican side then we have seen in the past, but we have also seen in those districts, a tremendous interest by democratic candidates of running. >> "washington journal" continues. host: we are taking your calls this segment. democrats can call (202) 748-8000. republicans, (202) 748-8001. and independents