FROM SECTION 631 of the conference report on the 2005 budget resolution: "It is the sense of Congress that . . . committees should submit written justifications for earmarks and should consider not funding those most egregiously inconsistent with national policy." Should consider not funding those most egregiously inconsistent with national policy. Should consider not funding those most egregiously inconsistent with national policy. Should consider not funding those most egregiously inconsistent with national policy. This item is such an apt reflection of congressional fecklessness that it's hard to decide which bit is most ludicrous.

Earmarks are the device lawmakers use to tuck pet projects into spending bills, often at the last minute and with no debate. Their use has mushroomed. For example, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report, earmarks in the Commerce, Justice, State appropriations bill have grown from 253 projects and 11.5 percent of the total appropriation in 1994 to 1,454 projects and 23.8 percent of the appropriation in 2004.

House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) proposed a one-year moratorium on earmarks for the coming fiscal year. His colleagues weren't enthusiastic. Nor would they go for a compromise proposal requiring stronger justification for earmarks. So the brave deficit hawks and worthy fiscal guardians endorsed this milquetoast, toothless admonition.

Even this is not apt to become law, because the budget resolution, which passed the House last week, is stalled in the Senate. Too bad: It would have been fun listening to members explain that their particular pieces of pork were only modestly inconsistent with national policy -- and therefore worthy of full funding.