Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Obama's promise to go after earmarks 'line by line'

At the first debate, Obama made a pledge about earmark reform.

(We didn't notice this promise when we created the Obameter database. But we had several reader requests to include it and got a fresh reminder this week while fact-checking a claim about Obama's position on earmarks . So we are adding it as Promise No. 512.)

During the presidential campaign, earmark reform was a major theme for John McCain, who often highlighted projects of other candidates that he considered wasteful. During the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, 2008, Barack Obama said he had stopped requesting earmarks as a senator and that he shared McCain's desire for earmark reform and the elimination of wasteful projects.

McCain noted that Obama had made $932 million in earmark requests during his first three years as a senator and he criticized Obama for saying earmarks accounted for "only $18 billion" in federal spending.

Obama replied, "John, nobody is denying that $18 billion is important. And, absolutely, we need earmark reform . And when I'm president, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely."

In his first six weeks as president, Obama has faced two huge spending bills that each gave him a major opportunity to demonstrate that "line by line" approach on earmarks. But there were two very different outcomes. To find the details of why we rated this one a Compromise, click here.