McConnell Moves on Earmarks

Posted June 18, 2008 at 6:12pm

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) informed his colleagues Wednesday that he is moving forward with a set of legislative and policy reforms to guide how Members of Congress earmark federal funds. McConnell also announced the Senate GOP Conference would hold a formal meeting next week to discuss the reforms, Republicans close to the issue said.

McConnell, who has taken heat from conservatives over the issue of earmarking, has gradually embraced the issue. He empaneled a group of GOP Senators earlier this year to produce the set of reforms.

Chaired by Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), the group included both longtime appropriators and conservative firebrands like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and was tasked with developing a consensus that could get broad buy-in from Republicans.

Since its release this spring, McConnell has used the set of recommendations to begin negotiations with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on legislation to implement the reforms.

Those talks have continued, and McConnell on Wednesday floated a draft bill to Reid for review. Although it remains unclear whether that bill will make it to the floor, a GOP leadership aide said that talks at the staff level have gone well and that McConnell hopes to have the rules in place as soon as possible to work out kinks before next year’s appropriations process, if possible.

McConnell declined to comment on the specifics of the legislation or how he and his Conference will implement them.

However, he did say the Conference meeting is the beginning of the implementation process.

“Next week’s conference is another concrete step for continuing reform and improving transparency of the legislative process,” McConnell said.