By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
Congressman Sam Graves contends a change made to end pork-barrel spending hampers efforts to hold the Army Corps of Engineers accountable for managing the Missouri River.
Graves claims the Corps now spends more money on habitat reclamation than on levee maintenance.
“In the old world or the way we used to do things, Congress would have gone in and said, no, you’re not doing that any longer and we would direct spending to and change it so that they were required to spend x amount of dollars, say, on levee maintenance and x amount of dollars on habitat reclamation,” Graves tells host Barry Birr on the KFEQ Hotline.
Graves says the crackdown against earmarks greatly reduced the power Congress had over federal bureaucrats without saving the federal government any money.
“We didn’t change the amount of money that was going to get spent,” according to Graves. “What we did was, we changed who gets to make the decision on how that money is spent.”
Graves, a Republican, blames his own party, saying Republicans went overboard in the reform efforts, handcuffing Congress while failing to rein in spending. He says the result was a shift of power to the federal bureaucracy with bureaucrats how deciding how to spend money, not Congress.
Graves says in their zest to end earmark spending, Republicans took away the power of Congress to direct federal agency spending.
“We’ve got to have directed spending back,” Graves says. “Everything should be completely transparent and I always argue, too, when it came to earmark reform and earmarks, those ones that are dropped into a conference report after it’s passed the House and the Senate, that was the problem. You know, the Christmas tree museum in North Carolina that just magically appeared in the conference report.”
Graves says Congress can address the abuse of earmarks without sacrificing the power of the purse which Congress holds. He says it would only require that House and Senate negotiators could not include anything in a conference report which was not in the original House and Senate bills.
Graves says without direct spending, Congress cannot force the Corps of Engineers to spend more money on maintaining the Missouri River levee system.
Graves says Republicans and Democrats can agree on at least one thing: criticism of the Army Corps of Engineers.
“Everybody has a horror story about the Corps. Everybody hates the Corps of Engineers, because of the way people have been treated when it comes to inland waterways, rivers, streams and things like that, particularly in the Midwest,” Graves says. “But, everybody has a horror story and everybody rolls their eyes when you bring up the Corps of Engineers.”