Republican House leaders are essentially calling Obey's bluff one day after the irascible Wisconsin lawmaker threatened to pull every earmark from the remaining appropriations bills in order to cut an additional $11 billion and meet President Bush's budget demands.
"This idle threat of taking away earmarks is just that," said Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). "An idle threat."
Boehner, who does not request earmarks for his Ohio district, was quick to say "I'm not here to say all earmarks are bad." He realizes that hundreds of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle might revolt if their hometown projects are actually yanked from spending bills.
Obey spokeswoman Kirsten Brost said Obey was serious, and appropriations clerks were drafting an omnibus bill that meets Bush's $933 billion bottom line but cuts all earmarks.
"Removing earmarks is not an idle threat," Brost said.
If a bill does come to the floor with all earmarks stripped, the GOP's "rebranding" effort on fiscal issues will be severely tested, as Republicans will be forced to choose between supporting their president's demands while giving up their pork projects.