Earmark ban: Common sense budget reform or 'tremendous step backwards'?
Senate Republicans decide to swear off earmarks. Now, they will try to persuade the Democrats to do the same. But many Democrats – and some Republicans, too – are wary.
Backed by a robust freshman class, Senate Republicans Tuesday laid out a reform agenda for the 112th Congress Tuesday that included a ban on earmarks, a restriction that senior GOP leaders had long opposed.Skip to next paragraph
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In a closed session late in the day, Republicans approved a resolution to ban the earmarks, member projects criticized as pork-barrel spending, for two years. Other resolutions, also nonbinding, included a moratorium on new unfunded mandates or entitlement programs, a federal hiring freeze on non-security employees, a return of unspent stimulus funds to the Treasury, and a cap on discretionary spending at FY 2008 levels.
“It’s a good way to start out united as a party,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina, a leader of the tea party movement and an outspoken critic of earmarking. “But there are thousands of earmark lobbyists in Washington looking for ways to get around this.”
Reid says he'd allow debate, vote
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, told reporters Tuesday that while he does not support such a ban, he will allow a debate and vote on the issue as early as January.
"I would be happy to work, to set up a reasonable time to have a debate on that and have a vote on it," said Senator Reid at an afternoon news conference.
Like many senior lawmakers, Reid opposes abandoning “congressionally directed spending” – the allocation of funding for projects, or earmarks – in favor of leaving the money decisions to officials in government agencies.
"I think I have an obligation to the people of Nevada to do what is important to Nevada, not what is important to some bureaucrat down here with green eyeshades. So I am not going – personally going to back off of bringing stuff back to Nevada,” he said at the news conference.
“I think it's a tremendous step backwards. It just gives more power to the executive. … And I am not in favor of delegating my constitutional responsibility to the White House,” he added.
Some senior Republicans, who like Reid had experience on the powerful Appropriations Committee, laid out similar reservations to the resolution in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote.