President Bush addressed Congress, the administration, and the nation Tuesday, 28 January, delivering his final State of the Union speech. The President primarily focused on national security issues and stimulating the economy but touched on energy security, stating, “We must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology.” The President addressed the need to capture carbon emissions, increase the use of renewable fuel sources, and create an international clean technology fund, but offered no particularly innovative energy policies or initiatives. In fact, following the speech, several members of Congress expressed their desire to hear the President talk more strongly about climate change and the need to address emissions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said in a joint statement, “We agree with the President that we must work together to make progress on our most pressing challenges. Yet tonight, the President offered little more than the status quo. At a time when our economy is on shaky ground and our leadership around the world is eroding, the status quo won’t do.”
The top two Democrats in Congress were not alone; Republican Senator John Warner (R-VA) stated that he “wished President Bush would take stronger steps” toward addressing climate change and cutting emissions. Several other Democrats echoed this, pushing slightly further, stating that the address was a wasted opportunity to make significant progress in reducing emissions and fighting climate change.
The President, addressing Congress directly, stated that he would veto any forthcoming appropriations bill that did not cut the number and amount of earmarks from last year in half. He followed up the address by issuing an executive order, “Protecting American Taxpayers from Government Spending on Wasteful Earmarks” (Executive Order 13457, Federal Register 29 January 2008). The Order stated, “To ensure the proper use of taxpayer funds that are appropriated for Government programs and purposes, it is necessary that the number and cost of earmarks be reduced, that their origin and purposes be transparent, and that they be included in the text of the bills voted upon by the Congress and presented to the President.”
A number of Democratic members of Congress questioned the President’s motivation after agreeing to sign appropriations legislation from a Republican Congress for six years, with no mention of earmarks.
Agreeing with the President, several Republican members indicated that the time to end wasteful earmarks is now. Yet the question remains how Congress will find the time to vote on $100,000 programs in a fiscal year 2009 budget request that totals $3 trillion and when continuing resolutions and consolidated funding have become the norm each fiscal year since 2002.
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