More Earmark Debate: Even Obama Gets One

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The incomparable Jonathan Allen of CQ finds Barack Obama’s name on one of the earmarks in the spending bill that just passed the House, which is essentially a leftover bill from last year to fund the current fiscal year.

President Obama, who took a no-earmark pledge on the campaign trail, is listed as one of dozens of cosponsors of a $7.7 million set-aside in the fiscal 2009 omnibus spending bill (HR 1105) passed by the House on Wednesday. . . . The $7.7 million earmark — for Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Vocational Institutions — is cosponsored by a long list of other members of both chambers. The program appeared in Senate report language last year but its sponsors were not identified at that time.

UPDATE: The White House bit back at Allen’s report Thursday afternoon, pointing to a letter, dated April 2, 2008, in which Obama, along with 36 other Senators, requested an increase in funding for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Program, which administration officials say led, after several more bureaucratic twists and turns, to Obama’s name being attached to the $7.7 million earmark. In an afternoon press conference, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs maintained that the request to fund the program should not be considered an earmark request, in part because there was no dollar figure attached to the request. “The president, as a senator, did not request earmarks for the final two years he was in the Senate,” Gibbs said. Separately, I am advised that a request has been made to appropriators to remove Obama’s name from this provision in the spending bill.

UPDATE AGAIN: Allen aptly summarizes the entire disagreement in a new piece:  “Whether Obama cosponsored the earmark depends on what the definition of earmark is and when an earmark becomes an earmark.” He also confirms that Obama’s name will be removed from the bill, though not neccesarily the names of the other cosignatories of the April letter.