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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

As Republicans Coalesce On Earmark Moratorium, Pressure Builds On Democrats

Congress is not in session today, so Democrats and Republicans can hold their respective leadership elections and policy lunches. The House Republicans caucus tomorrow to pick their leadership for the next Congressional session.

The Senate Republicans choose their  leadership this morning. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was re-elected by acclamation to serve as Senate Republican Leader after being nominated by Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator-Elect Marco Rubio of Florida. It was the third time that Republicans have unanimously chosen Sen. McConnell to serve as their leader and the fifth straight party election he has won by acclamation.

Also today, Senate Republicans unanimously re-elected Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona as Senate Republican Whip, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota as Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming as Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, and Sen. John Cornyn as Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Senate Republicans agreed to a ban on earmaks proposed by Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.). The Republican Conference by voice vote called on Democrats to adopt a voluntary ban moments. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) called on Democrats to swear off requests for “Congressionally directed spending item, limited tax benefit or limited tariff benefit” during the 112th Congress (the next two years).

On Wednesday, up to three cloture votes on motions to proceed to bills are scheduled: on S. 3815, a bill concerning natural gas and electric vehicles, on S. 3772, a bill Democrats have misleadingly named the “Paycheck Fairness Act”, and on S. 510, the food safety bill.

The New York Times writes today, “Senate Republicans opened the lame-duck session of Congress on Monday by signaling their commitment to the antispending posture that fueled their big gains on Election Day, underscoring the Tea Party movement’s influence on the Republican leadership. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, drove the point home as soon as the Senate convened by announcing that he would support a proposed ban on Congressional earmarks . . . .”

The Wall Street Journal editorializes, “Mr. McConnell . . . had the wisdom to reverse himself. ‘Old habits aren’t easy to break, but sometimes they must be,’ he said in a strong statement on the Senate floor. For two years, he said, he has accused ‘Democrats of ignoring the wishes of the American people. When it comes to earmarks, I won’t be guilty of the same thing.’ It was a necessary act of leadership by the Minority Leader and should reinforce his authority in the larger battles ahead. His new position also clears the way for a big GOP vote in favor of the ban. With House Republicans also poised to pass a moratorium—thanks to leaders Eric Cantor and John Boehner—the Grand Old Party will stand united against the special-interest projects that have become the poster child of Washington’s spending blowouts.”

As the WSJ editors point out, “That cohesion will let Republicans cast the spotlight onto Democrats, who have been in control of the earmark favor factory the past four years.” Indeed, the NYT notes, “Mr. McConnell’s move also put pressure on Democrats to move in the same direction and highlighted a potential clash between President Obama, who has criticized earmark spending, and top Senate Democrats, who have shown no willingness to ban the practice.”

But according to Roll Call, “Many Senate Democrats don’t seem to feel the same pressure to forgo their power of the purse through earmarks. While earmarks are expected to come up today during their weekly luncheon, the idea of an earmark ban received a cool reception from many in the Conference.”

And The Wall Street Journal reports, “Senate Democrats showed no inclination to match the Republicans’ move. ‘It’s up to each senator whether or not they will support congressionally directed funding to their state,’ said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. He added: ‘Sen. Reid makes no apologies for delivering for the people of Nevada.’ . . . Among Senate Democrats, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa told reporters after Mr. McConnell’s statement: ‘I’ve always maintained there are valid and good reasons for congressionally directed funding.’ Mr. Harkin added, ‘Everything’s out in the open.…The president is dead wrong on this.’ Asked if there was any move afoot among Senate Democrats to ban earmarks, departing Sen. Ted Kaufmann (D., Del.) laughed and said, ‘Not that I know of.’”

However, there are some Democrats who appear to be joining with Republicans in supporting a moratorium on earmarks. In fact, President Obama seemed to be supportive of Sen. McConnell’s position yesterday, releasing a statement saying, “I welcome Senator McConnell’s decision to join me and members of both parties who support cracking down on wasteful earmark spending, which we can’t afford during these tough economic times.” And Roll Call writes, “[A]t least two Democrats, Sens. Mark Udall (Colo.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.), hailed the GOP’s decision. ‘I welcome Senator McConnell to the fight to ban earmarks,’ McCaskill said in a statement. McCaskill is up for re-election in 2012. ‘Tax dollars are always best distributed based on merit. I’m glad that Republican leadership is coming around to this idea; now it’s my Democratic colleagues’ turn to get on board.’”

Will Democrat leaders in the House and Senate heed Sen. McCaskill’s call to join Republicans in forgoing earmarks?

Tags: US Senate, Earmarks, moratorium, Republican, Senate leaders, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 1:45 PM - Post Link


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