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Number of GOP senators committed to voting against earmarks grows to 19

With the pressure mounting before the vote on earmarks in tomorrow’s Republican Conference meeting, a growing number of senators are coming out with statements in favor of Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) proposed moratorium on the practice. The group Taxpayers Against Earmarks has launched a feature on its website devoted to counting GOP votes, which indicates that 19 Republican senators have now publicly indicated that they’ll vote for the ban tomorrow.

That’s not yet a majority, but it’s about double the number who have come out against the measure, so nearly all the senators now sitting on the fence would have to vote ‘no’ for DeMint’s moratorium to fail. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) emailed me the following statement on Friday:

The message from the 2010 election was unmistakable: Washington spends too much and borrows too much. I want to take every possible step to reduce spending, decrease the debt and limit the size of the federal government. Since joining the Senate in 2007, I have voted consistently for earmark reform. Banning earmarks will not on its own put our fiscal house in order. It will however send a strong message that we need to do something different and I plan to continue to vote for it.

And the momentum isn’t coming just from Republicans. Following President Obama’s call for Congress to reform the earmark process, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) released the following statement:

“Earmark reform has been a lonely fight for a long time, so it’s encouraging to have others taking this issue seriously, especially among Democrats since I will be the only senator from my party opposing earmarks after the new year,” McCaskill said. “The bottom line is that tax dollars shouldn’t be doled out based on politics or secret deals, and it’s time both Democrats and Republicans join together to stop them.”

Earmark reform, and perhaps other open government and congressional ethics rules, might be a rare place of ideological overlap between President Obama and the Tea Party agenda. Teaming up on something like more aggressive lobbying reform or shoring up the Office of Congressional Ethics — which some Republicans have indicated they would like to see scrapped — would require a real setting aside of partisanship, however, and I haven’t seen anything so far to indicate that it’s in the works.

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