An Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman says budget director Jim Nussle issued a memo to agency heads to address how to implement the executive order under the continuing resolution.
The spokeswoman says the CR includes more than $5 billion in earmarks that agencies will apply the guidance toward.
The memo gives agencies three stipulations that must meet to fund these earmarks:
If the earmark was in the fiscal 2008 appropriation bill;
If it would continue in 2009 and beyond;
If the agency can spend the entire appropriation for the earmark in one year
If the earmark does not meet these requirements, the memo gives the agencies the ability to determine whether the earmark has merit and should be funded. The OMB spokeswoman says the executive order laid out the criteria for making merit or competitive decisions.
She adds that about $3 billion of the earmarks in the continuing resolution would be handled this way.
Federal budget experts say the memo’s timing as well as how it is worded is strange.
Stan Collender, managing director at Qorvis Communications and a federal budget expert, says the administration issued the memo for political reasons.
“This is a memo OMB put out for two reasons: No. 1, to reassert the President’s insistence that there would be no earmarks even though he signed on to as many or more than any other President,” he says.