U.S. Rep. Jim Moran departs Congress unrepentant on the need for those much-maligned targeted budget items known as earmarks.
Moran – who once famously, if jokingly, promised to “earmark the shit out of” the federal budget if Democrats regained control in Congress – told the annual meeting of the Inter-Service Club Council of Arlington that the spending measures that used to be inserted at the behest of individual members of Congress should be brought back.
Horse-trading among members of Congress, or between the executive and legislative branches, is hardly new. Moran noted that Abraham Lincoln had to trade things in order to win congressional support for emancipation of slaves.
“It may be messy, it may not pass muster with the good-government groups,” Moran said of the earmarks process, but “it’s a system that has worked for 200 years.”
Without them, Moran said, it is no surprise that Congress can’t manage to pass a budget, as there is no incentive for individual members of Congress to support a spending plan where they can’t bring home the bacon.
“Members have no reason to vote for it, because there’s nothing they can show their constituency,” he said.
The Nov. 19 stop at the Inter-Service Club Council luncheon was another in what is becoming a long line of events honoring Moran, who has served in Congress more than 20 years but is retiring in December.
Elizabeth Schindler, who is wrapping up two years as president of the Inter-Service Club Council, said it was no coincidence that the organization asked the veteran lawmaker to keynote the gathering.
“You have served really, really hard and really well,” she told Moran. “We are service organizations, we thought it would be a good fit to have you.”
(Anticipating that Moran might pack on a few unwanted pounds due to all the testimonial lunches and dinners he is being invited to, the Inter-Service Club Council purchased him two sessions with a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym. “Use it well and use it wisely,” Schindler said.)
Why is he leaving? At the luncheon, Moran expanded on earlier frustrations.
“Congress as an institution is dysfunctional,” he said. “Life’s too short to be part of an institution that only produces frustration.”
Things were different when Moran first was elected to Congress in the early 1990s, he said, pointing to partnerships and friendships with Republicans like Frank Wolf, Tom Davis and John Warner that helped find funding for a new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, support the redevelopment of the former Lorton Reformatory and restore the lost wages of federal workers caught in the wrangling over sequestration.
Today, “that whole sense of camaraderie [in Congress] is not working,” Moran said. “Democratic and Republican caucuses . . . are not looking for compromise. They’re afraid of compromise.”
Asked to name his biggest accomplishment while in Congress, Moran pointed to efforts in the health-care and defense/technology arenas, but said, “I’m most proud of the personal relationships I’ve built up.”