Exclusive interview: Sen. James Inhofe pushes back on earmark moratorium

posted at 10:55 am on November 10, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

In a wide-ranging interview this morning exclusive to Hot Air with one of the leading conservative voices in Congress, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma explained why he has decided to oppose the earmark moratorium pushed this week by fellow Republicans like Sens. Jim DeMint (SC) and John McCain (AZ).  The moratorium not only contradicts the Constitution, Inhofe argues, but it puts the power of the purse mainly into the hands of the President — and Barack Obama has already shown that he can’t be trusted with it after his pork-filled stimulus plan from February 2009.  Inhofe warns that “Obama wins” if the moratorium passes, which is why the President has publicly backed the effort.

The Senator knows that I have been a critic of earmarking and have supported a moratorium in the past, and we debated the issue during our conversation.  He didn’t disagree that earmarks have become a cesspool of abuse, but disputed that the moratorium would change anything except authorship.  Inhofe plans to introduce a bill on Monday when the Senate reconvenes that will attempt to stop the abuses, and promises to discuss those provisions further once the bill gets onto the floor.

We also discussed the election, the coming debate on tax increases, and the composition of the incoming freshman class of the GOP. Inhofe says that Democrats are ready to make a deal on the tax rate increases that will automatically take effect if Congress neglects to act, having had their noses bloodied in the election. While he’s very happy about the inroads conservatives have made in the midterms, he’s a little disappointed about the results in Washington, West Virginia, and Colorado, where he campaigned for the Republican candidates with high hopes of success. I asked him about party switchers, and he and I joked about not naming names from places like Nebraska or Arkansas as a matter of manners, but he has some insight into how and why current members of Congress may feel pressure to move away from Democrats. Be sure to watch it all.


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How the F”K is it possible to be this tone deaf?

It’s the US Senate.

Good Lt on November 10, 2010 at 3:06 PM

If they can’t do something small like a moratorium on earmarks, what confidence can we have that they’ll attempt the big things that need to be done, like entitlement reform?

olesparkie on November 10, 2010 at 3:19 PM

It’s the US Senate.

Good Lt on November 10, 2010 at 3:06 PM

God I hope you are right and that is all it is. Never in my following politics over many decades have I ever thought the next two years might be the most important in my lifetime. If this Congress fails, with the whirlwinds around us, it could be a societal nightmare, the kind that always happens somewhere else.

patrick neid on November 10, 2010 at 3:20 PM

Good Lt on November 10, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Then ban earmarks completely until a law is passed that actually addresses this. As long as they have earmarks to spend, they will not implement good legislation to govern them. Mark my words.

You seem to forget that Repub leaders tried this with securing the borders and amnesty. I don’t trust them. They have lied about every single one of these deals and renigged on every promise. They are on probation now. They need to prove that they are serious now.

You don’t try to fix the plumbing until AFTER you turn off the water. Otherwise, it only makes matters worse and tempts you to put off the repairs completely.

dominigan on November 10, 2010 at 3:43 PM

Hey,floating rock! Who died and made you the conservative God? Who anointed you to define conservative? I am sick and tired of so-called self-styled “conservqtives” telling everyone else what a “conservative” must be. You wouldn’t make a pimple on Jim Inhofe’s a$$ as far as being a conservative. Show me one more state, any state, in this whole country of 57 states that is more acknowledged conservative, who has more conservative elected politicians than Oklahoma. Why don’t you go and start your own “conservative” party of one and leave the rest of us alone.

For the rest of you, I can’t believe all you POS’s that blindly leap on politicians that have been fighting these battles. If I see any more bashing of Inhofe or Coburn for one action you disagree with after a lifetime of carrying your water, then I will shout throughout the net that Hot Air is full of moronic “conservative” commentators and confirm most libertard suspicians.

Old Country Boy on November 10, 2010 at 3:51 PM

If the tone-deaf GOP RINO leadership continues to pay lip service to conservative common-sense solutions and thereby PO their base – I fear things are not going to end well this time around.

Americans are sick of politics as usual and the feeble attempts by the only viable opposition to the socialist policies that are being rammed down our throats.

The current Democrats, at least, are unapologetic about their liberal solutions and usually seize the slightest opportunity to implement them. They place a tight leash on their Blue Dogs and only let them off on votes when passage is already assured, otherwise you can bet the Blue Dogs will vote in lockstep with their leadership.

The GOP, on the other hand, are content to let conservatives vault them into power and then proceed to tread all over them until another election is around the corner.

We are saying: “No more! You either walk the talk or get out of office!”

TheRightMan on November 10, 2010 at 3:56 PM

Old Country Boy on November 10, 2010 at 3:51 PM

You entire post is one straw man after another. There isn’t a single thing I’ve said that you can quote in the proper context and then refute on legitimate grounds so instead your comment is comprised entirely of invective.

FloatingRock on November 10, 2010 at 4:00 PM

Old Country Boy on November 10, 2010 at 3:51 PM

In addition to the invective you are also expressing support of elitism.

FloatingRock on November 10, 2010 at 4:02 PM

MESSAGE NOT RECEIVED.

HondaV65 on November 10, 2010 at 4:04 PM

If I see any more bashing of Inhofe or Coburn for one action you disagree with after a lifetime of carrying your water, then I will shout throughout the net that Hot Air is full of moronic “conservative” commentators and confirm most libertard suspicians.

Old Country Boy on November 10, 2010 at 3:51 PM

Start shouting. Why would we care?

HondaV65 on November 10, 2010 at 4:05 PM

Old Country Boy on November 10, 2010 at 3:51 PM

I define a conservative in this environment as someone who will strictly adhere to the plain wording of the Constitution. Earmarks are a way to buy re-election by spending money on un-Constitutional objectives.

If he is a true conservative, he shouldn’t see a problem with shutting off the flow of water until the plumbing can be fixed properly. Anything else is just lying, because we know darned well they aren’t going to fix anything while the spigot is still on. Lying to us doesn’t work any more.

dominigan on November 10, 2010 at 4:10 PM

Old Country Boy on November 10, 2010 at 3:51 PM

Are you now shilling for the establishment? Let me guess – you are one of the political staffers who can’t bear to see the elimination of earmarks?

What the “self-styled conservatives” (as you call us) on this forum are asking for is respect from our so-called leaders.

I will willingly trade the current Democrat leadership in congress for ours if only I could get them to adopt conservative beliefs. You think they will be dilly-dallying over earmarks if that was what their base wanted? You think Obamacare would have passed if it was a Republican initiative and the Democrats opposed it the same way we did?

Just accept this – our current leadership lack the gravitas and they either need to “man up” or step aside!

TheRightMan on November 10, 2010 at 4:11 PM

I wish we could recall senators – McConnell will certainly be the first and I would pay anything to see him replaced by the likes of Chris Christie. He is a fighter and the type we need in Congress standing up to the media and Democrats.

TheRightMan on November 10, 2010 at 4:15 PM

it depends are what you would define as ‘earmarks’. they tried to get McCain for earmarks because he wanted the Feds to buy up land around Luke AFB for a buffer zone. Do you define highway and related infrastructure as earmarks, people pay 50 to 60 cents a gallon of gas depending on where you are located for the highway trust fund that should be used for highway infrastructure repair, but is constantly raided for bicycle paths, and mass transit. So how do you define earmarks?

RonK on November 10, 2010 at 4:17 PM

How do you define elitism? If I support people who are competent and do their jobs well then I must be an elitist. Ever since Ed was doing Captain’s Quarters he has had many commenters that pile on perceived minor infractions.

I see commenters here accusing Inhofe and Coburn of being the old elite and bringing home the bacon to Oklahoma. Didn’t you read about our senators not accepting highway funds for a critical blttleneck in the northeast – southwest interstate. By the way, we have one short stretch of amtrack that we pay for ourselves, most of our interstates are turnpikes and we built them ourselves, etc. We still respect and elect these two senators. Where is the “pork” they are bribing us poor deluded Okies with?

er. How much “pork” does your senator bring home? Hmmmmm? Why are you still electing him/her?

Invective? you betcha. When you insult and lie about a friend, I will invect the he!! out of you. Strawmen? No, just observant and tired of the sorority-girl mentality of this thread.

Old Country Boy on November 10, 2010 at 4:18 PM

When you insult and lie about a friend, I will invect the he!! out of you. Strawmen? No, just observant and tired of the sorority-girl mentality of this thread.

Old Country Boy on November 10, 2010 at 4:18 PM

I’ll address this first, since it’s simply not true. If it were true then you could quote me, but you can’t provide one real example. (Intentionally or not, you made it up.)

But if you can drop your emotional argument in favor of a reasoned one it would be a more productive. You might even change some minds.

FloatingRock on November 10, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Old Country Boy on November 10, 2010 at 4:18 PM

You can tap dance around it any way you wish – and argue with yourself – because you’re responding to arguments that no one has made here …

But you cannot explain away the fact that earmarks are bad – and ought to be gotten rid of. It’s really that simple. Matters not that they aren’t a significant part of the budget – they are abhorrent pork creations that distort the legislative process.

Inhoffe is defending them – well sort of. Like you – he’s tap dancing around the central issue here and that is …

They are bad – get rid of them. This isn’t an issue about what was done in the past – or who was more successful in “bringing home the bacon” – which are the arguements you’re reacting to. The central issue is that these abominations need to be exterminated.

Inhoffe isn’t willing to do it – and makes many excuses for not getting rid of them. Does that make him Satan? Nooooo … but it does call into question his abiltity to interpret the results of an election and the desires of American voters.

HondaV65 on November 10, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Didn’t you read about our senators not accepting highway funds for a critical blttleneck in the northeast

The country is in a deep financial hole and the baby boomers are about to retire. The entitle-wave will be a thousand feet high. How do you propose that we address these problems? Business as usual, maybe fiddle with the knobs?

Those are the people that we through out of office in ’06 and ’08.

FloatingRock on November 10, 2010 at 4:43 PM

through threw

FloatingRock on November 10, 2010 at 4:46 PM

They are bad – get rid of them. This isn’t an issue about what was done in the past – or who was more successful in “bringing home the bacon” – which are the arguements you’re reacting to. The central issue is that these abominations need to be exterminated.

Inhoffe isn’t willing to do it – and makes many excuses for not getting rid of them.

HondaV65

No, he’s not. He’s saying the “moratorium” being discussed won’t get rid of them. Do you want to do something just for the sake of doing something, or do you want them to do something that actually addresses the issue?

His argument about Obama controlling the purse is nonsense though. As far as I know, the president has no power to spend anything. The pork-filled stimulus bill he refers to was written and approved by congress(which Republicans now control), not Obama.

xblade on November 10, 2010 at 6:42 PM

I have heard there is some defence to earmarks Constitutionally, but they aren’t in the form they were intended to be. The modern ‘earmark’ is nothing more than bacon funneled to groups and interests that end up supporting you. Rangel manages to get pork for CUNY, there’s something named after him there now. It’s DISGUSTING.

I’d like to think they can be reformed – in a limited capacity they could have their place as set asides – but now that Pandora’s box has been opened I’m not sure we can go back. So I say ban them for 6 months, let Inhofe write his legislation and then we’ll see.

linlithgow on November 10, 2010 at 10:10 PM

Senator Tom Coburn told McConnell, Imhofe and assorted others to put a cork in it about earmarks in a scathing piece in the National Review. Now this is more like it!!!

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

Lines are being drawn.

patrick neid on November 10, 2010 at 10:16 PM

If I support people who are competent and do their jobs well then I must be an elitist.

Old Country Boy on November 10, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Please define “competent” and “do their jobs well”. When Congressmen take office, they are required to take an oath to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States”. This is my entire basis for defining “conservative”, and why I question whether Inofe is truly a conservative.

Elitism is thinking you are above the law, the same law that required you to take your oath of office, that you now routinely ignore.

Why is it considered so extreme that when they take an oath, they actually mean it?

This is all that I want. For them to mean what they say, and live their oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution, like they have sworn to do. Instead I only hear squishy arguments, and no questioning of where does the Constitution authorize spending on MOST of the topics of earmarks?

dominigan on November 10, 2010 at 10:25 PM

NO MORE EARMARKS.

Earmarks are bribery. Earmarks pay representatives to enact legislation in direct defiance of their constituents’ wishes. Earmarks take away the people’s voice.

Now, THAT is unconstitutional, Sen. Inhofe!

As for Obama, the people have spoken about his policies. The issue now is not OBAMA; it is the GOP. STAND for something. Take a stand for something other than money-grubbing, greasing palms to bribe representatives, Sen. Inhofe.

It’s only $20 Billion. What it IS is BRIBERY. I’m sick of it. And, I’m infuriated that Republicans are even debating what COULD BE their shining moment, if they would ONLY stand up for PRINCIPLES.

NO. MORE. EARMARKS.

mountainaires on November 11, 2010 at 9:29 AM

I think we need to start every one of these debates with one question:

What is your definition of an earmark?

It seems that everyone has their own variation of what an earmark is. Is it the last minute payoff? Is it voted on? Is it openly debated or placed in “under the table?” Is it all of these? Is it something else?

Just my 2 cents.

JeffVader on November 11, 2010 at 10:28 AM

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