I got an email from a talk show listener this morning wanting to ask Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT) a question regarding the ban on earmarks that he has supported. The listener cited an article in The Great Falls Tribune discussing Rehberg’s earmark pledge. I couldn’t find the article on the Tribune’s website, but fortunately the Montana Democratic Party had access to the script which is posted here.
“Earmarks are not the problem,” he said in an interview with the Tribune in December. “They direct money that already exists within the program to a particular area, because who knows their district more than we do? That’s our opportunity to make our argument to our colleagues. It doesn’t add to the budget.”
Now Rehberg’s website calls earmarks “the symbol for all the abuse and waste in Washington.” His reversal has led some to wonder if the ban is just a political stunt in an election year, aimed at voters wary of government spending.
Meanwhile, how about this shot from across the chamber, as Senator Jon Tester’s staff directly criticized Rehberg over the earmark ban:
“Jon does not support an earmark moratorium because it rings hollow as nothing more than a stunt that doesn’t save taxpayers a single dime, and will mean fewer investments are made in Montana,” his spokesman Aaron Murphy said.
How’s that for the pot calling the kettle black? I guess the Great Falls Tribune either wasn’t aware or failed to mention Senator Tester’s campaign pledge in 2006 where he said, “I’m opposed to earmarks, period.”
Nonetheless, the discussion over an earmark ban is an interesting one. Montana has certainly benefitted from earmarks. I had the chance to ask Rehberg himself about the earmark ban, and whether he is opposed to all federal spending projects in Montana. If I heard him correctly, the earmark ban won’t necessarily stop all federal funding for Montana projects, as he will work to support projects which have gained Congressional authorization for funding.
Click here to listen to part one of “Voices of Montana” this morning, where Rehberg discussed the earmark ban.
Click to Listen
As a side note, I’m also pleased to report that both Congressman Rehberg and Democratic Congressional Candidate Dennis McDonald have both agreed to sit down together and join us for a live debate/discussion on “Voices of Montana.” Stay tuned for details.
Video of 2006 debate where now-Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) said he is opposed to earmarks: