Republicans in the Senate have mainly coalesced around the proposed earmark ban, but with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Some, such as Lisa Murkowski and Missouri’s new Senator Roy Blunt, flat-out oppose the moratorium and say so publicly. David Mastio warns that others who appear to have gotten aboard the earmark-ban bandwagon have signaled that they may apply the time-tested rule of “pork for me but not for thee“:
Some of those Republican senators who say they’re in favor of eliminating earmarks are reserving the right to be for earmarks as soon as they are done voting against them.
Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander calls ending earmarks merely a “timeout” and says, “I will respect this moratorium, although in an emergency case I reserve the right to ask Congress and the president to approve measures of urgent importance to Tennesseans.”
Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss says that “there are times when crises arise or issues come forth of such importance to Georgia, such as the Port of Savannah … that I reserve the right to ask Congress and the president to approve funding.”
Orin G. Hatch of Utah says, “I have always said I have an obligation as your senator to make sure that our state, our communities and our people get back the hard-earned tax dollars we contribute to the federal Treasury. That’s only fair and right, and is something I will not stop fighting for.”
There’s a name for such words – weasel. And as long as the Republican Party has a strident weasel caucus that insists on being both for and against home-state pork, the GOP is in danger of losing what may be its last shot at regaining the public’s trust.
Earlier, I interviewed Senator James Inhofe, the leader of the opposition to the moratorium, who has publicly debated these very points. But with all due respect to an otherwise solid conservative, the Senator is just wrong on this issue — and so are those who hold out earmarks as some sort of justice for the home state. But at least Senator Inhofe is consistent and honest about his position.
If a crisis arises where Georgia or any other state needs relief, it doesn’t require an earmark to provide it, at least not in the sense earmarks usually take, which are buried line items in larger bills. Congress has the ability and the responsibility to appropriate funds for a crisis (at least one in which the federal government should be involved). That can easily be accomplished through stand-alone legislation, not line items in a barely-related large appropriation bill. That would require a floor vote, which earmarks do not get on their own. The same is true for the needs of the Port of Savannah, or any “urgent issues” for Tennesseeans.
The notion of redistribution is even more laughable, especially coming from a Republican. Want to keep money inside Utah? Start cutting federal taxes and let Utahans keep more of their money — and everyone else at the same time. That can happen when the federal government stops funding all sorts of nonsense, which usually occurs through pork-barrel spending and the inflated budgets that pork helps pass into law. Stealing from the states in order to redistribute the money back to the states isn’t exactly a Robin Hood maneuver, no matter who attempts to justify the process through demands for fairness.
The pork moratorium will eventually help the GOP establish itself as a reform party, but in the meantime, it has been a good for clarifying the problem within the party establishment.
Update: Aboard, not about, in the first paragraph. Sorry for the confusion.