Tuesday, March 9, 2010

DeMint to force vote on Pelosi earmark ban

Yesterday Roll Call reported that Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives are considering a one year moratorium on earmarks:
The idea, floated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a leadership huddle Tuesday, is for House Democrats to outflank their Republican counterparts, who have mulled and rejected such a moratorium in recent years.

The discussion was brief and inconclusive, sources with knowledge of the session said. Leaders decided they needed to explore it further with Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.). But if top Democratic brass decides to embrace the ban, it would likely have far-reaching consequences — and meet stiff resistance from some corners of the Democratic Caucus that cherish earmarks as a constitutionally protected legislative prerogative and a political necessity in an increasingly hostile environment for incumbents.

For the current fiscal year alone, members of both parties in both chambers secured 9,499 earmarks worth a total of $15.9 billion, according to a study by Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The Democratic proposal in part reflects a calculation by leaders that their earmarks could get scrapped anyway. With the Senate struggling to handle even routine business, House leaders believe their spending bills might well end up tangled in an end-of-year morass in the other chamber, leaving their projects on the cutting room floor as lawmakers roll spending measures into a single package.

“Why fight the pain and take that hit when most of these bills aren’t even going to the president’s desk?” one leadership aide said.
It is difficult to see how Speaker Pelosi will corral the Democratic votes she needs to pass health care reform in the absence of the tried and true quid pro quo earmarks, but Senator Jim DeMint has wasted no time in calling her bluff:
U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, commended U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for considering a one-year earmark ban and pledged to force a vote this week on a similar earmark ban in the U.S. Senate.

“Nancy Pelosi and I don’t agree on many things, but if she’s willing to take a stand for taxpayers, I’ll work with her to put an end to the earmark favor factory,” said Senator DeMint. “Americans have been disgusted by the backroom deals and earmark kickbacks used to ram through bad legislation and drive up our debt. Right now, earmark lobbyists are flooding Capitol Hill hoping to secure billions in taxpayer dollars for special interest projects. The Senate will have the opportunity this week to stand with Americans and put a stop to this wasteful spending. Our nation is drowning in debt that will be paid by our children and we’ll never stop Washington’s spending addiction unless members of both parties take bold action. We need to focus on balancing the budget, not pork barrel spending that has wasted money on bridges to nowhere, teapot museums, and monuments to politicians.”
If the Senate won't allocate $10 billion in unused stimulus money to pay for the extension of unemployment benefits, it is unlikely that it will find the collective will to ban earmarks.  Even so, it's a good move by DeMint and I applaud him for continuing to fight the good fight.

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