President Bush at his 2007 State of the Union address.
President Bush at his 2007 State of the Union address. - 
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KAI RYSSDAL: As happens every year on the day of the State of the Union speech, the White House let some of the details slip out early. National security, free trade, the stimulus package, it's all there, but the president has also taken aim at something very nearly untouchable, at least if you ask the members of Congress sitting in the audience. He wants to crack down on legislative earmarks, but not until next fiscal year.

From Washington, Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: President Bush was fired up about earmarks in last year's State of the Union address, too.

PRESIDENT BUSH: So let us work together to reform the budget process, and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session.

Republicans and Democrats applauded wildly. A year later, 2008 spending bills contain more than 11,000 earmarks, a pile of pork worth nearly $17 billion. Tonight, President Bush will announce he'll veto any future spending bills that don't cut earmarks in half. He'll sign an executive order tomorrow requiring government agencies to ignore most earmarks, but President Bush's proclamations tonight only apply to fiscal 2009 spending.

RYAN ALEXANDER: The president's not putting his neck on the line with this statement.

Ryan Alexander is president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. She says the president should have applied tonight's proclamations to this year's pork.

ALEXANDER: It's all actions that potentially another president is going to have to follow through on, and making promises for somebody else is a lot easier than making promises for yourself.

John Graham worked in the Office of Management and Budget under President Bush. He thinks the president is focused on future earmarks because that's the best way to make his tax cuts permanent, another thing the president is expected to call for tonight.

JOHN GRAHAM: He realizes that the future of his tax cuts hinge on a much better ability to control domestic spending.

And there's the rub. Congress doesn't like sacrificing its pork.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer For Marketplace.