James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

McConnell reverses on earmark ban

November 15, 2010

Score another one for the Tea Party:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared Monday that he now supports a GOP ban on earmarks, a stunning reversal that puts the Kentucky Republican in line with the tea-party wing of his party and conservative senators who have long sought to kill off pet projects. “What I’ve concluded is that on the issue of congressional earmarks, as the leader of my party in the Senate, I have to lead first by example,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Nearly every day that the Senate’s been in session for the past two years, I have come down to this spot and said that Democrats are ignoring the wishes of the American people. When it comes to earmarks, I won’t be guilty of the same thing.”

McConnell’s backpedal on earmarks is also a remarkable win for Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who had been gaining ground in their effort to force their Republican colleagues to adopt an earmark moratorium.

A complete ban on earmarks would a) save some $16 billion a year, b) make it harder for the big-spenders to bribe/threaten other members to vote for more spending; and c) make life harder for lobbyists. On that last point, getting rid of tax breaks and moving to flat tax would also be a blow on behalf of good government. Here are the biggest earmarkers this year in the Senate and House:

senatehouse

Comments

Yep, the rubes got rolled again. Even before the moratorium is adopted, some influential GOP senators are dismissing the ban as political gamesmanship and say they are prepared to defy the moratorium and continue to pursue earmarks.

Lisa Murkowski, James Inhofe, and Thad Cochran are all saying they will ignore the ban. Not surprising at all, since Alaska, Oklahoma, and Mississippi are three of the biggest welfare states in the nation.

Of course, this is all political theater anyway, since earmarks constitute about 1% of the budget.

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