July 29, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Earmark Fight up Again in Senate

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn said he's open to discussions on a ban on earmarks but that the public might better be served by looking at other ways to address jobs and debt.

"We'll see in a day or two how many are really interested in improving this bill, having amendments that are germane or relevant, and we'll take a look at it in a day or two," Reid said.

He added that he opposes an earmark ban. "We have an obligation as Members of Congress to fulfill our Constitutional duty. One of those duties is to make sure that we do Congressionally directed spending. I object and do not believe that all these decisions should be made at the White House," Reid said.

"I've done earmarks all my career, and I'm happy I've done earmarks my entire career," Reid continued. "They've helped my state and they helped different projects around the country. And I repeat, I will not stand by and be driven down this path that is one that I think is taking us away from what the Founding Fathers wanted: three separate but equal branches of government."

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who backs a ban, said he doubts that it will pass even if it does come up for a vote.

"I am a co-sponsor of it," Burr said. "It's probably not going to pass. I think there is a lot of opposition to cutting off the gravy train on both sides of the aisle."

Earmarks make up less than 1 percent of overall federal spending.

Still, opponents of earmarks scored a victory after House Republicans won the majority in 2010 and voted soon after to adhere to a two-year moratorium, which expires at the end of this year.

The House's move forced Senate Democratic and Republican leaders' hands. Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had been reluctant to curtail earmarks on Constitutional grounds. But Republicans agreed to a moratorium in November 2010, followed by Democrats in February 2011.

Some supporters of the moratorium, such as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), even noted at the time that it was only supposed to be a temporary hiatus from the practice.

Earmarks also were tainted by relatively recent scandals. Last September, lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti, who headed the now-defunct lobby shop PMA Group, pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally funneling more than $386,000 in corporate campaign contributions to lawmakers, including appropriators, during a nearly six-year period.

Despite earmark opponents' successes in forcing leaders to accept a moratorium, the issue has had less success on the Senate floor.

In November 2010, the Senate voted 56-39 against an earmark ban McCaskill and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) sought to attach to a food safety bill.

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