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Republican and Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee denounced the amendment and are pushing their colleagues to reject it. “What happens if we don’t say how the money should be spent with some specificity?” asked Senate Appropriations ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). “We’re just turning over billions of dollars to the administration to spend without any guidance from the people, and the people are supposed to govern America. That’s what the Constitution says. Those that want to turn over the spending to bureaucrats are standing the Constitution on its head.”
“The consensus is, it’s not a good idea,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who sits on the Appropriations panel. “I’m just not prepared, and I think a lot of my colleagues are not prepared, to acquiesce to the nameless, faceless bureaucrats ... making all those decisions.”
If Cochran, Reid and other opponents can keep the entire 29-member Appropriations Committee united, they should be able to defeat the amendment, particularly since it will almost certainly be subject to a 60-vote point of order.
In addition to Reid and Durbin, Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) — who served on the Appropriations Committee during his time in the House — have all said they will oppose the amendment.
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) appear to be leaning against it, while Delaware Democratic Sens. Joseph Biden and Tom Carper have said in recent days they support reforming the process but have stopped short of endorsing a moratorium.
DeMint has 14 co-sponsors, including McCain, Obama, Kyl, Clinton, Cornyn and Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).
Those Members are targeting rank-and-file Members, as well as at least three appropriators — Allard, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). Republican and Democratic aides familiar with the two parties’ whip counts predict that DeMint will likely need to muster 35 to 40 of his Republican colleagues to sway enough Democrats and put it past the 60-vote threshold.
Senators on both sides of the aisle bristled at their presidential candidates’ positions in favor of the amendment.
“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Durbin said of both Obama and Clinton’s decision to support the amendment. Durbin added that it has created problems for Senate Democratic leaders.
“When all of the presidential nominees are in favor of a moratorium or abolition of earmarks — McCain, Clinton, Obama — you know, some Members have said to me, ‘Wait a minute, we’re supporting these people for president,’ and I’ve said, ‘Yeah, they can be wrong, too,’” Durbin told reporters. Durbin has been a prominent supporter of Obama.
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), an appropriator, blamed the hubbub over the amendment on “a fever that comes out of the presidential campaign,” and Salazar said the issue was the product of “election-year politicking,” not good governance.