Obama pledges to end earmarks


WASHINGTON (JTA) — President-elect Barack Obama pledged to end earmarks, the pet projects lawmakers slip into spending bills.

Most presidents in recent years have sought the power to remove from spending bills the discretionary items lawmakers insert for their pet projects and home districts, often having little to do with the main body of the legislation.

In a news conference Tuesday on his plans to reform the economy, Obama said he would "ban all earmarks," although he did not say how.

Jewish groups that lobby for federal spending on health care and poverty relief often rely on earmarks to advance their programs. NORCs, or naturally occurring retirement communities, the program pioneered by federations that facilitates care for retired people close to their homes, was established through earmarks.

William Daroff, the director of the Washington office of the United Jewish Communities, said he hoped Obama would distinguish between productive earmarks and "pork" — those that benefit only a few people.

"Throughout the campaign, the president-elect distinguished between bad earmarks — pork that corrupts our political system — and good earmarks — worthy programs that fund necessary social service programs in innovative ways," Daroff told JTA in an e-mail. "I am confident that the President-elect and his team understand this distinction, and will work tirelessly to eliminate corrupt pork, while preserving programs that are funded in above-board and transparent ways."

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