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Coburn says he’ll force a Senate floor vote on earmarks on Wednesday

On a conference call hosted by the Heritage Foundation, Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) delivered an impassioned plea in advance of tomorrow’s Republican Conference vote over ending the practice of requesting earmarks for local spending projects. But if the measure doesn’t pass tomorrow, Coburn made it known that he plans to force another, more public vote on the issue on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday.

“If [Democrats] bring up a food safety bill, we’re going to have a vote by every member of the Senate on whether or not we believe in earmarks or not,” Coburn said, alluding to a vote on a food safety bill that the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled for Wednesday. “And the greatest criticism I have for those that want to earmark is that they’re basically lazy. They really do not want to do the hard work of oversighting the federal budget.”

Coburn’s comments were in many ways a rebuttal directed towards his fellow Oklahoman, Sen. James Inhofe (R), who has argued that abstaining from earmarks will simply empower the executive branch and federal bureaucracy to make all the decisions about the way the federal budget gets spent.

“The reason bureaucracies can get away with what they’re going is we aren’t doing our job,” added Cobrun. “We could cut the federal government by a third and nobody would know the difference. There’s that much waste.”

DeMint, for his part, remained optimistic about the chances of his vote passing in Republican conference tomorrow, but he allowed that the secret nature of the vote could cause some members to defect silently. He argued that no conservative, however, can logically stand for limited government and still advocate earmarks.

“If we believe that it’s our job to pave local parking lots and build local sewer plants and museums, then we can’t believe in limited federal government,” he said. “Earmarks are a way for us as Republicans to show that we’ve gotten the message, and also a way to take our eyes off parochial interests and focus on national interests, the general welfare. It’s not our job to be directing money to local projects that don’t have national significance.”

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