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Obama Delivers Remarks on Earmark Reform

Acknowledging it's an 'imperfect' bill, President Barack Obama said he will accept a $410 billion spending package but insisted it must signal an 'end to the old way of doing business.' Video by AP

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009; 11:51 AM

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning.

I ran for president pledging to change the way business is done in Washington and to build a government that works for the people by opening it up to the people. And that means restoring responsibility, transparency and accountability to actions that the government takes. Working with the Congress over my first 50 days in office, we've made important progress toward that end. Working together, we passed an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that's already putting people back to work, doing the work that America needs done. We did it without the customary congressional earmarks, the practice by which individual legislators insert projects of their choosing.

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We're implementing the Recovery Act with an unprecedented level of aggressive oversight and transparency, including a Web site, recovery.gov, that allows every American to see how their tax dollars are spent and report on cases where the system is breaking down.

I also signed a directive that dramatically reforms our broken system of government contracting, reining in waste, abuse and inefficiency, saving the American taxpayers up to $40 billion each year in the process.

And I've laid out plans for a budget that begins to restore fiscal discipline, so we can bring down the $1.3 trillion budget deficit we've inherited, and pave the way for our long-term prosperity.

For the first time in many years, we've produced an honest budget that makes the hard choices required to cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term in office.

Now, yesterday Congress sent me the final part of last year's budget, a piece of legislation that rolls nine bills required to keep the government running into one, a piece of legislation that addresses the immediate concerns of the American people by making needed investments in line with our urgent national priorities.

That's what nearly 99% of this legislation does, the nearly 99 percent that you probably haven't heard much about.

What you likely have heard about is that this bill does include earmarks.

Now, let me be clear. Done right, earmarks have -- have given legislators the opportunity to direct federal money to worthy projects that benefit people in their districts, and that's why I've opposed their outright elimination.

And I also find it ironic that some of those who rail most loudly against this bill because of earmarks actually inserted earmarks of their own and will tout them in their own states and their own districts.

But the fact is that on occasion earmarks have been used as a vehicle for waste and fraud and abuse. Projects have been inserted at the 11th hour without review, and sometimes without merit, in order to satisfy the political or personal agendas of a given legislator, rather than the public interest.

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