Showdown: McConnell quietly campaigning against DeMint’s earmark ban

posted at 2:39 pm on November 9, 2010 by Allahpundit

I’m surprised. The usual argument against anti-earmark measures is that they’re essentially meaningless, which is true: Earmarks are a tiny percentage of the annual federal budget, a vanishingly small fiscal burden to bear compared to, say, nondiscretionary spending. But the porky stench of pols funneling taxpayer money to their home districts to buy influence is so foul that stuff like this necessarily makes for fantastic retail politics. It’s basically a symbolic battle against waste, in other words, with DeMint wanting to signal to Republican voters that the new GOP is serious about spending and McConnell fretting that if they don’t keep the pork coming, voters will hold it against them in 2012. Given that we’re exactly one week removed from the election and endless GOP stump speeches about “learning our lesson,” it’s worth letting DeMint win this one, no?

While McConnell is not demanding that rank-and-file Republican senators vote against the earmark ban, he’s laying out his concerns that eliminating earmarks would effectively cede Congress’ spending authority to the White House while not making a real dent in the $1 trillion-plus budget deficit. And McConnell is signaling his concern about the awkward politics of the situation: even if the DeMint moratorium passes, Republican senators could push for earmarks, given that the plan is nonbinding and non-enforceable

DeMint on Tuesday released a list of 10 other Republican senators who back his proposal, including Cornyn, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Ensign of Nevada, Mike Enzi of Wyoming — along with Sens.-elect Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire…

McConnell’s heightened activity signals what Senate insiders say is real fear among senior members — that the DeMint plan actually stands a serious chance of passing. And that could have uncomfortable implications for a bloc of GOP senators — like McConnell, a member of the Appropriations Committee — who annually send hundreds of millions of dollars for projects in their home states…

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, one of the most conservative senators and an unabashed earmarker, plans a blitz on conservative talk radio to make the case that critics have demagogued the earmark issue in order to make their political points that they’re out to reform the excesses of Congress.

“They should quit worrying about this phony issue,” Inhofe told POLITICO, singling out DeMint, Coburn and Arizona Sen. John McCain criticism, saying the trio have taken aim at earmarks because it’s a “huge political plus” for them.

The Republican caucus will vote on it — by secret ballot — next Tuesday, and no one’s sure yet what to expect. Cornyn’s also pushing a balanced-budget amendment, which will almost surely pass if only so that they have some political cover with the base in case DeMint’s measure is defeated. Again, the fact that the resolution’s nonbinding and that tea partiers like DeMint will continue to speak out against earmarks anyway means that there’s virtually nothing to be gained by McConnell in opposing the measure. He’s still going to infuriate the base if he continues to earmark; he simply won’t be in technical violation of any “sense of the caucus” resolution if he does it. In fact, Rand Paul has already reminded his supporters that he’ll have no problem demanding Kentucky’s fair share of pork so long as it’s appropriated through normal procedural means, not snuck into a bill at the last moment. Which is yet another reminder that this is mainly a symbolic measure, so why not get behind it? Especially since opposing this measure is apt to intensify calls for McConnell to be replaced as minority leader — possibly with Jim DeMint. I don’t get it.

Update: Rand Paul’s team is now claiming that his comments on earmarks were misinterpreted. They seems perfectly clear to me, but judge for yourself.

Update: A much better argument against obsessing over earmarks, I think, is that it sucks congressional attention away from truly meaningful spending cuts to entitlements or defense. (Inhofe alludes to this in the quoted bit above.) But there’s basically only one guy in Congress at the moment willing to talk about that big-picture perspective, and it sure as heck ain’t Mitch McConnell.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2

There are 2 types of “Republicans”

The ones going the same direction as the Democrats they just want to go slower and not be so greedy in their theivery.

The others want to go in a completely different direction in line with founding/Reagan principles

This is why RINOS can’t be embraced and why the first group need to be pushed aside, retired or reprogrammed.

TheBigOldDog on November 9, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Just as I expected. The GOP has learned absolutely nothing. Nothing’s going to change

Mitch needs a wake-up call. The Bush days are over- Republican power doesn’t mean a chance to line their pockets with pork even if it’s not the main driver of the deficit.

bayam on November 9, 2010 at 4:20 PM

Slash and burn.

If earmarks can’t be sh!tcanned, what can?

They are bribes. No more.

Akzed on November 9, 2010 at 4:23 PM

I can accept the notion that there may be some ‘worthwhile’ earmarks — what torques the voters is that the process is secret, and nobody takes credit for the crap.

Make the writers sign their work — then we’ll see who’s really so proud.

CaveatEmpty on November 9, 2010 at 4:27 PM

Update: A much better argument against obsessing over earmarks, I think, is that it sucks congressional attention away from truly meaningful spending cuts to entitlements or defense. (Inhofe alludes to this in the quoted bit above.) But there’s basically only one guy in Congress at the moment willing to talk about that big-picture perspective, and it sure as heck ain’t Mitch McConnell.

Actually, there’s two, but the other spendthrift from Wisconsin that’s there now is more-focused on the Judiciary and Gorebal “Warming” committees.

Besides, the Big Picture Caucus will double come January.

steveegg on November 9, 2010 at 4:37 PM

There goes the victory.

OmahaConservative on November 9, 2010 at 4:38 PM

Mitch! Catch a Clue!
It’s not like you won by a landslide during your last election. And that Paul guy did pretty well , as I recall. The dynamic has changed. Not ending earmarks, will just plain look bad. It’s the Perception , Stupid!

humdinger on November 9, 2010 at 4:39 PM

And in this episode of Stupid Politician Tricks we have Sen. Mitch McConnell, who’s attention span is only exceeded by some gnats, decide that being given a chance to stand up to excess spending, like the voters have made perfectly clear, which would save his own party, he would prefer, instead, to see just how quickly the American people can dismantle the Republican Party and Democratic Party in 2 years.

Stay tuned for the fun and games of Leadership Follies, that sees if there is really, and for true, one political party that is the stupidest as they work to outdo each other time and again. As the horrified public watches to their dismay that there is no stupidest party, just each party being stupider than the other in a downward spiral of inanity that only ends up when they either write off both parties and start over, or decide to strand all the politicians in the Nation in Chicago and close down the city to see if it will implode into a black hole of ignorance!

Fun will be had by none.

ajacksonian on November 9, 2010 at 4:41 PM

The very existence of earmarks is corrupt. It’s a stupid process that’s utterly indefensible. The only reason to put something in an earmark is to avoid debate and disclosure. That’s the only reason. If you can defend your spending, then do it. If you try to sneak it in, you can’t defend it and shouldn’t get it.

GalosGann on November 9, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Slash and burn.

If earmarks can’t be sh!tcanned, what can?

They are bribes. No more.

Akzed on November 9, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Exactly. What have the last two years been about if not PRINCIPLES. If McConnell wants to be dealing with third-party candidates for 2012, just because he can’t give up the candy… that’s his choice. But he’s making it for every Republican, not just himself.

Now is the time for CLEAR differences between Republicans and Democrats. And time is short. If McConnell is not prepared to show the public who the grown-ups in the room are, then he can’t refute the idea that there are no real differences between parties.

Murf76 on November 9, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Earmarks are corruption plain and simple. Instead of skimming money off and then send back to the states, let them keep more of there own money.

wheelgun on November 9, 2010 at 4:49 PM

wheelgun on November 9, 2010 at 4:49 PM

I agree. When is the last time we saw a senator or congressman vote against them knowing their vote would make a difference? It’s the reverse NIMBY principle – it’s not pork if it’s for my district / state. The attitude sucks, but we have accepted it. And both sides are to blame – they funnel the money into the businesses they know would benefit from this and would help in their re-election.

peter_griffin on November 9, 2010 at 4:59 PM

It now appears that we need to kick McConnell out of his leadership role.

All in favor … ;o)

DannoJyd on November 9, 2010 at 5:00 PM

founding/Reagan principles

TheBigOldDog on November 9, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Don’t do that.

ernesto on November 9, 2010 at 5:02 PM

McConnell, you to can be replaced.

IT AIN’T YOU DAMN MONEY YOU JACKASSES ARE SPENDING.

IT. IS. THE. AMERICAN. PEOPLES. MONEY.

RealMc on November 9, 2010 at 5:04 PM

The other thing to thing about is whether earmarks work. Before voting for Obamacare, Blanche Lincoln got a big old payout for poultry farmers and a retroactive payment to farmers who suffer weather loss. Where is Sen. Lincoln now?

Cindy Munford on November 9, 2010 at 5:18 PM

McConnell is a scumbag judas (like McCain and Co.) and he’s radioactive to all those around him. He pushed out Bunning and he’s sent the message to Rand, “I’ll push you, too.”

McConnell, unfortunately isn’t up till ’14, and he must be primaried, obviously. But more than primaried, he must be villified as the old boy jackass he is. He will do more to hurt us than Harry Reid, if we’re not vigilant.

Western_Civ on November 9, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Yeah…

Just for giggles, tell me again how bad it was that we didn’t retake the Senate this time around.

With this tool as Majority Leader?

P.S.

NO secret ballots, Mitch.

We want to know EXACTLY how you all vote on this.

SuperCool on November 9, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Half of these earmarks really don’t buy influence at all. What good does a turtle crossing do for me, or other voters? Half the ‘jobs’ created by these scams are just going to disappear as soon as the money goes. I don’t see fake jobs like that as a way of improving the economy.

The rest of actual ‘legitimate’ earmarks should just be removed from normal legislation and into a pure spending bills. Let them live or die by their actual usefulness and not the pushing of some other ‘important’ bill.

clement on November 9, 2010 at 5:27 PM

Don’t just post your frustration on this website. Let McConnell know what you think too. Don’t swear…it just ruins your impact.

http://mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=ContactForm

lwssdd on November 9, 2010 at 5:38 PM

What in the hell is wronfg with McConnell?! F@#%ing RINO!

MCGIRV on November 9, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Get ready for the next two years:

“McConnell quietly campaigning against [fill in the blank conservative idea].

Time to primary this powdered-wig Republican.

rrpjr on November 9, 2010 at 5:48 PM

this has nothing to do with sending money back home. this has to do with graft. why do you think senators spend millions ot win a senate seat. EARMARKS. they ar ethe senators pay. they send the earmarks back then those compnaies or org generously fund their PAC’s and they use that money for everything for the next 6 years. that is how reid lives in the Ritz, that is how Castle made $8million on a gov salary.

These guys want to protect their status as millioniars and the incoming freshman senators? Well someone has to pay the bills off and it might as well be the taxpayers.

they should all be arrested and charged for embellizment

unseen on November 9, 2010 at 5:51 PM

Ok Mitch,

Just require each earmark to be a stand alone bill to be voted on by the entire Senate AFTER going through the appropriate committee process. IF the earmark is a worthy endeavor, it’ll pass…

Gohawgs on November 9, 2010 at 5:54 PM

Half of these earmarks really don’t buy influence at all. What good does a turtle crossing do for me, or other voters? Half the ‘jobs’ created by these scams are just going to disappear as soon as the money goes. I don’t see fake jobs like that as a way of improving the economy.

The rest of actual ‘legitimate’ earmarks should just be removed from normal legislation and into a pure spending bills. Let them live or die by their actual usefulness and not the pushing of some other ‘important’ bill.

clement on November 9, 2010 at 5:27 PM

it’s not for the voters nor the states, nor is it intended to win votes. It is simply the first part of the cycle to defraud taxpayers and make senators filthy rich

earmarks=campaign donations=more earmarks.

unseen on November 9, 2010 at 5:54 PM

Deep down I never wanted the Senate to flip because Mitch McConnell is so easy to demonize – even site like this can find pictures like the above to guarantee Obama a second term. Minority Leader, Eh, who pays attention.

Marcus on November 9, 2010 at 5:55 PM

IF the earmark is a worthy endeavor, it’ll pass…

Gohawgs on November 9, 2010 at 5:54 PM

they can not afford to pass these things in the light of day because then some lazy reporter might decide to investigate them and see the connection and how it adds to the senator’s bottom line

Take a look at the murtha investigation to understand how the game is played…..

unseen on November 9, 2010 at 5:56 PM

you all don’t think a hammer really cost $500 to the government do you?

DC is filled with leeches.

unseen on November 9, 2010 at 5:59 PM

McConnell is part of the establishment. No surprise there. This man will be led to pasture, absolutely for sure unless he some how detaches himself from the likes of McCain and Graham.

Keemo on November 9, 2010 at 6:00 PM

Maybe Mitch should talk to gov Palin:

Cancel federal programs and cut earmarks: “When I was the governor, I reduced earmarks by 85 percent,” Palin says. “And we did just fine.”

unseen on November 9, 2010 at 6:02 PM

I disagree Allah – about the ‘symbolic waste’.

As St. Everett Dirksen once said, “A million here, a million there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

Add up all those earmarks over the years, we’d be looking at a BIG chunk of change.

GarandFan on November 9, 2010 at 6:02 PM

I DON’T WANT MCCONNELL BE REPLACED BY DEMINT. NEVER.

I WANT DEMINT TO REPLACE OBAMA!

PRESIDENT DEMINT 2012!

If he doesn’t like it… may be “that woman” will take it …

PRESIDENT PALIN 2012!

TheAlamos on November 9, 2010 at 6:06 PM

clement on November 9, 2010 at 5:27 PM

Who owns the land where the turtle crossing is going to be put and how much is the government willing to pay for it?

Cindy Munford on November 9, 2010 at 6:06 PM

Add Mitch to the list!

Pablo Snooze on November 9, 2010 at 6:10 PM

cut everything. military, domestic, entitlements, earmarks, foreign aid. fire sale time. we’re f*cking broke.

alteredbeat on November 9, 2010 at 6:12 PM

The Senate’s still just a damn good ol’ boys club to people like McConnell and Trent Lott. Schmoozing with the Dems, who would cut their throats in a minute.

Retire, you SOB!

Ward Cleaver on November 9, 2010 at 6:21 PM

The amount is irrelevant…they’re used to buy votes to pass crappy legislation.

James on November 9, 2010 at 6:41 PM

“McConnell is part of the establishment. No surprise there. This man will be led to pasture, absolutely for sure unless he some how detaches himself from the likes of McCain and Graham.”

The problem is the Rinos and establishment will go to extremes to keep their seats. They have no sense of honor and I fear will behave like any common Democrat in order to keep their hold on power. We have to blow them out of the water in the primaries. This whole subject is an absolute disgrace.

Africanus on November 9, 2010 at 7:02 PM

McConnell is the epitome of the establishment RINO. Not only do we need to flush more liberal demonrats, but the RINO thinning is just beginning. McConnell, McCain, Graham, and Rove are not fit to lead.

volsense on November 9, 2010 at 7:06 PM

The establishment GOP has exposed itself as a major hurdle in restoring conservatism to the Republican party. They represent their own self interests with total disregard for the best interests of the people. We didn’t flush enough this election and still have many to go. The cleaup is only beginning.

volsense on November 9, 2010 at 7:10 PM

Biggest pure cancer we have left in the Senate is Lindsey Graham. This is the belly of the beast of RINOism. We just had a good beginning a week ago; much more work to do.

Keemo on November 9, 2010 at 7:18 PM

Earmarks are not symbolic when the country is running a deficit. It is theft of the public purse guided by the principle that if I don’t steal it some one else will.

The fact, mentioned for years, that McConnell does not get this is why Repubs were run out of town and will be again in 2012 as long as McConnell is the voice of the Senate. Most of these guys are way past their due dates.

If Bachus gets his chairmanship in the House it is all over folks. The tea party will be gutted and the Repubs are history in 2012 with Obama in a second term. Independents will not stand for even a minor deviation from campaign promises as stated by the Tea party. Before the Tea party they held most repubs in contempt and still do especially folks like McConnell.

patrick neid on November 9, 2010 at 7:49 PM

You think McConnell “got” the results of the election? He didn’t. I guaran–freekin–tee he didn’t get it. And he won’t get it when he loses another four RINO proteges in the next election. He won’t even get it when he himself loses in a primary. He won’t get it by the time he writes his memoirs. He’s one of those people who just never gets it.

rrpjr on November 9, 2010 at 8:06 PM

AP: why earmarks matter- Congress is charged with defining the process by which the Executive branch spends/distributes money. Earmarks basically allow Congress to by-pass the very process they legislated. Without earmarks, Congress would be forced to actually do their job.

rock the casbah on November 9, 2010 at 8:09 PM

Sorry, AP, on this one you are wrong on all counts.

Earmarks are not a problem for their symbolism (porky stench), and they are not an issue because the funds affected are a large part of the national insolvency.

They are very important in making congressional fiscal irresponsibility harder to fight because they are the CURRENCY of (corrupt-ish, irresponsible) budgetry. Without earmarks it becomes much harder to buy off, er, rent a Ben Nelson. Not impossible – but having seen the sausage-making up close for years, earmarks are the major tool used to pass stuff that otherwise would struggle or fail. So – not symbolic at all.

Of course congress can still produce catastrophically irresponsible and unsustainable fiscal policy without earmarks. But it would be more difficult as a practical matter.

Second, the “not enough time to deal with both” argument is ridiculous. Congress can do all these things and 1,000 things besides and the House can still go home on Thursday nights and come back Tuesday mornings. There are, in every congress, oodles of time for dealing with all important matters. Even without a dictatorial approach in the House, it can move the budget resolution and all appropriations bills through by the fall each year. A minimally competent Senate majority leader – OK, you got me there, Reid is far from that – “burns” the bills that typically can take a few weeks each on the floor by running 7 day sessions, 10AM to midnight (used to be Defense and State authorization bills, plus of course tax measures, that were the annual torture sessions).

I haven’t yet read all the other comments, but I skimmed a few, and have to agree with those who are appalled and furious that NOW, before they’ve even had a chance to pat themselves on the back, the congressional GOPers are slumping towards business as usual. Amazing.

I could not decide whether I was satisfied with the election results, or disappointed and pessimistic. I’m tending towards the latter again – I think it takes a terrific shock to change the Beltway, even for short periods. The place is a robust disaster – the character and personality of those there now reflect the steady decline of the country’s fortunes there. There is no accountability, politically or even legally, for outlandish and outrageous behavior that 20 years ago would have ended careers.

Vile idiots like Reid and Boxer (and the unlamented Murtha) are returned easily, notwithstanding their disgraceful and pernicious “records”. The GOP, while not nearly as bad as the truly unbelievable Dems, is dominated by self-serving, cowardly, greedy mediocrities unconcerned with the country’s future and living in terror of the disapproval by the drooling morons of the collapsing “press”.

IceCold on November 9, 2010 at 8:15 PM

I skimmed a few, and have to agree with those who are appalled and furious that NOW, before they’ve even had a chance to pat themselves on the back, the congressional GOPers are slumping towards business as usual. Amazing.
IceCold on November 9, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Great post! McConnell is unfreaking-believable after what just happened. Power corrupts and also makes them deaf.

Feedie on November 9, 2010 at 10:09 PM

I know recently elected Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) campaigned against accepting earmarks, so there’s my contribution. You’re welcome.

scotash on November 9, 2010 at 10:17 PM

Time to start working hard to get rid of McConnell.

Bum.

Danny on November 9, 2010 at 10:18 PM

I could not decide whether I was satisfied with the election results, or disappointed and pessimistic. I’m tending towards the latter again
IceCold on November 9, 2010 at 8:15 PM

I do that too. They don’t even want to stop the momentum of a coming catastrophe. If there’s a bright side, it is the power of true leadership. One person like that can squash those crap-weasels or compel them in the right direction. Palin has them tripping all over each other and she’s not elected to anything.

Feedie on November 9, 2010 at 10:36 PM

The Fox all-stars discussed this subject today. What I hadn’t understood before is that earmarks don’t add or detract from money being spent. The funds have already been authorized and earmarks merely specify where it will go. If they didn’t have them, the spending would be left up to the executive branch. Steve Hayes argued that even so, they encourage spending because everybody wants their share.

The real place to cut spending is in the appropriations process. Doesn’t that begin in the House?

This would be a good subject for a show, Ed.

flataffect on November 10, 2010 at 3:31 AM

I have stated many times before that McConnell is a professional politician wonk. He is one of the elite that refuses to believe that his job is to govern and represent the state that elected him….. not to bring home pork. Thanks to progressivism we elect senators rather than having them appointed by the states as required by the original Constitution. Thanks, liberals.

ultracon on November 10, 2010 at 7:57 AM

Sounds like it’s time to hit the phones, letters and e-mails.

steelman on November 10, 2010 at 9:39 AM

Dear Mitch,

We the American public are pinned down on Omaha beach while trying to re-take our country’s future. We would really like some assistance from someone in conservative leadership, but it looks like you are not going to be that one. You are either hunkered down eating a chocolate bar or even worse, you may be teamed up with the guys shooting at us.

I realize that earmarks are more complex than everyone is making out, but we the American people are only focussed on the bottom line: will we ever get our future back without banning earmarks? NO, we won’t.

How ’bout helping out the folks on the beach? Sure, we ALL benefit from Federal funding, so we’re campaigning against our immediate futures in the interest of our long-term futures. This may not be the battle you would have chosen, but you must win battles whereever they are being fought.

How ’bout joining us and showing that you have as much courage as the voters do?
If not, go back to representing KY and leave leadership to those who will use it.

rwenger43 on November 10, 2010 at 11:57 AM

IceCold nailed it. Earmarks are the grease that slides all the bad legislation through Congress. They need to all cease the passing of spending bills and get down to cutting the BS that should never have been part of the Federal Government. We all need to get on the US Senate site and tell all of these guys that they can all be replaced. They need to know that this is our government and we can change it when we want. The sooner they all understand that the sooner we get our collective house in order.

Dog bites on November 10, 2010 at 6:42 PM

I don’t know if anyone else has posted this. I just read a great post on NRO about earmarks. He says it all.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/253028/earmark-myths-and-realities-sen-tom-coburn#

Dog bites on November 10, 2010 at 7:10 PM

Comment pages: 1 2