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Weekly remarks: Obama wants earmark reform; Greg Walden heads transition to new GOP House majority

November 13, 2010 |  3:00 am

G 20 Group photo 11-12-10 where's waldo?

Weekly remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House 

This weekend, I’m concluding a trip to Asia whose purpose was to open new markets for American products in this fast-growing part of the world. The economic battle for these markets is fierce, and we’re up against strong competitors. But as I’ve said many times, America doesn’t play for second place. The future we’re fighting for isn’t as the world’s largest importer, consuming products made elsewhere, but as the world’s largest manufacturer of ideas and goods sold around the world.

Opening new markets will not only help America’s businesses create new jobs for American workers. It will also help us reduce our deficits – because the single greatest tool for getting our fiscal house in order is robust economic growth. That kind of growth will....

...require ensuring that our students are getting the best education possible; that we’re on the cutting edge of research and development; and that we’re rebuilding our roads and railways, runways and ports – so our infrastructure is up to the challenges of the 21st century. 

Given the deficits that have mounted up over the past decade, we can’t afford to make these investments unless we’re also willing to cut what we don’t need. That’s why I’ve submitted to Congress a plan for a three-year budget freeze, and I’m prepared to offer additional savings.  But as we work to reform our budget, Congress should also put some skin in the game. I agree with those Republican and Democratic members of Congress who’ve recently said that in these challenging days, we can’t afford what are called earmarks. These are items inserted into spending bills by members of Congress without adequate review.

Now, some of these earmarks support worthy projects in our local communities. But many others do not. We can’t afford Bridges to Nowhere like the one that was planned a few years back in Alaska. Earmarks like these represent a relatively small part of overall federal spending. But when it comes to signaling our commitment to fiscal responsibility, addressing them would have an important impact.

As a Senator, I helped eliminate anonymous earmarks and created new measures of transparency so Americans can better follow how their tax dollars are being spent. As President, time and again, I’ve called for new limitations on earmarks. We’ve reduced the cost of earmarks by over $3 billion. And we’ve put in place higher standards of transparency by putting as much information as possible on earmarks.gov. In fact, this week, we updated the site with more information about where last year’s earmarks were actually spent, and made it easier to look up Members of Congress and the earmarks they fought for.

Today, we have a chance to go further. We have a chance to not only shine a light on a bad Washington habit that wastes billions of taxpayer dollars, but take a step towards restoring public trust. We have a chance to advance the interests not of Republicans or Democrats, but of the American people; to put our country on the path of fiscal discipline and responsibility that will lead to a brighter economic future for all. And that’s a future I hope we can reach across party lines to build together. Thanks everybody, and have a great weekend.    ####

>Capitol Dome

Weekly remarks by Rep. Greg Walden, as provided by Republican Party leadership 

Hello, I’m Congressman Greg Walden of Oregon.

The American people have sent their government a clear message. They want us to focus on creating jobs. They want to see Congress spend less.  And they want government to be smaller and less intrusive. They want health care reform that protects jobs instead of this government takeover that’s costing us jobs.  And they want Congress to respect their will and honor our Constitution.

These priorities are embodied in the Pledge to America – it’s a governing agenda focused on creating jobs, cutting spending, and reforming Congress, a blueprint built by listening to the American people.  In the new majority, the people’s priorities will be our priorities.  

Having run a small business for more than 20 years, I can tell you that no turnaround succeeds without a change in culture.  For too long, Washington has been doing what’s best for Washington, and they get away with it. Too often, accountability counts for nothing, and transparency for even less, and common sense -- well, it’s an endangered species.

That’s why our leader, John Boehner, has pledged to run the House of Representatives differently than it’s been run in the past – by both parties. And he’s asked me to lead a transition effort designed to ensure our new majority will be ready to serve as the people’s voice and implement the proposals that Americans are demanding.Oregon Republican representative Greg Walden

So we’ve assembled a transition team of proven reformers, including citizens newly elected to Congress who’ve jumped at the opportunity to begin changing Congress before being sworn-in.

The incoming Republican freshman class – well it’s no ordinary group: nearly half of its roughly 80 members have never served in elective office before. 

So they bring a fresh perspective and a lot of the energy, intelligence and experience that we want to incorporate into how we implement reforms that give the government back to the people.

And for this reason, we’re not only including them in the transition to a new majority, but also giving them a seat at the leadership table in the next Congress.

We’ve already begun initiating changes to open up the people’s House, including installing public cameras in the powerful Rules Committee.  That’s where they decide which bills and which amendments come to the floor for a vote.

We’re evaluating how Congress operates to make sure there’s time for lawmakers to actually read the bills before they’re voted on and to make certain every one of those bills contains a clear citation of constitutional authority. 

We want taxpayers to be able to keep tabs on bills as they’re being written and hearings as they’re happening.  We’ve got the people’s business to do, and the people have the right to watch that business being done.

And we’re also tracking down every last rule and roadblock rigged to keep government’s spending binge on auto-pilot. If we’re ever going to change the broken status quo, we need to make it easier to cut spending and harder to increase it.
And we’re searching for savings so we can cut the cost of Congress, and make this institution more efficient.  As is the case for any business seeking a turnaround, there won’t be any sacred cows here.

Now, we don’t pretend to have all the answers. We invite Americans from all walks of life to visit GOPLeader.gov/NewMajority where you can submit your ideas. 

We’ve already received hundreds of ideas from across the country. Thank you. Whether you associate with one party, no party, or the Tea Party, we want to hear from you.

Listening is how we built the Pledge to America, and listening is exactly how we’re going to keep it.  So, log on to GOPLeader.gov/NewMajority to learn more and to have your say. Thank you very much.    ####

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Photos: Charles Dharapak / Associated Press (G-20 group photo in Seoul, 11/12/10); Manuel Balce Cene / Associated Press; Walden's office.

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