Giving up pet projects divides both GOP and Dems

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 8:48 am

Yesterday’s vote among Senate Republicans to place a two-year moratorium on the practice of requesting earmarks looks like it’s shaping up to be the beginning, not the end, of a long debate about the issue. My article today describes the mixed feelings of many Republican senators signing onto the ban and the new routes they’ll have to pursue to keep their pet projects alive. Other Republican senators, however, look to be in open rebellion of the new rule, while some Senate Democrats have joined their GOP colleagues to push for a floor vote on the issue.

“I don’t think so,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told the National Journal in response to whether she would comply with the resolution. She argued the moratorium was simply “about messaging” and would give a false impression about taking serious action on reducing the deficit. Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) expressed similar reservations yesterday.

And Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), for her part, attempted to backpedal on her definition of exactly what an earmark is, telling the Minneapolis Star Tribune that transportation projects should be excluded. “I don’t believe that building roads and bridges and interchanges should be considered an earmark,” Bachmann said. “There’s a big difference between funding a tea pot museum and a bridge over a vital waterway.”

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Mark Udall (Colo.) have teamed up with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) to press for a vote on the Senate floor on the issue. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), however, remains a staunch proponent of earmarking and he has said he’ll block any efforts to have a floor vote on the issue should it be brought up today. He argued the Senate simply doesn’t have enough time to consider the measure right now, but would be open to a vote at another time.

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