Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell eats some crow: Tea Party Wins GOP Vow to Ban Earmarks
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell turned against earmarks Monday.
From The Wall Street Journal:
In a swift victory for tea-party activists, the Senate's top Republican agreed Monday to a plan to ban GOP members from proposing earmarks for spending bills, suggesting that what was once a core part of legislating has now become politically unacceptable.
Earmarks, or spending items tucked into legislation by individual lawmakers, had long been defended by leading Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The development came as Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, reversed his longstanding support for the practice and said the public would no longer accept it.
Many conservatives who won in the recent election have attacked earmarks as a symbol of congressional favoritism and horse-trading. Earmarks were attacked in campaign commercials and have figured largely in the widespread public disgust with congressional spending.
Monday's announcement won't ban earmarks by law. It will be a rule governing Senate Republicans and expire at the end of the next Congress in January 2013, unless it is renewed.
Senate Democrats showed no inclination to match the Republicans' move.
Some senior Republicans still defend earmarks, saying, among other things, that the Constitution gave Congress the power of the purse, and that barring earmarks shifts more power over spending decisions to Mr. Obama and the executive branch.
Mr. McConnell was a leading defender until Monday, creating tensions within the party and in particular with Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), a big figure in the tea party. But in his first speech on the Senate floor since the election, Mr. McConnell capitulated.
The $15.9 billion in earmarks made in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 amounted to about 1% of discretionary spending, the part of the budget that Congress controls on an annual basis.
In 2008, the Senate rejected a proposed earmark ban by a vote of 71-29. Only six Democrats voted for the measure, including then-Sen. Obama.
Senate Republicans are scheduled to vote Tuesday on an earmark ban.