A darned good question. Inserting them into the bill in the first place is bad enough, but at they very least he could have yanked them after the Senate GOP caucus passed DeMint’s earmark moratorium. Kind of like Orrin Hatch did:

After the Republican caucus voted to impose an earmark moratorium last month, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) — who’s likely to face a primary challenge from the right in 2012 — asked Senate appropriators to strip his earmarks from the omnibus.

“I did,” Hatch confirmed to me this afternoon after a Senate vote, “because I decided I voted for the moratorium, and I thought ‘well, I need to do that.'”…

This afternoon, I asked Thune, a likely GOP presidential candidate, why he didn’t do what Hatch did.

“I guess I hadn’t thought about doing it,” he confessed. “The resolution that we passed applied to the next two years, it didn’t apply to this budget year [but] we are where we are now, the bill’s on the floor, but I think that we have an opportunity to strip earmarks out on the floor, we will. And we may get that opportunity.”

Says Dan Foster of the omnibus bill, which has been kicking around in the Senate for ages, “[I]n many cases senators had months to register protest. Senator Hatch did just that. Why didn’t others?” Another darned good question. Under pressure, Thune’s office told him that they didn’t yank the earmarks because they didn’t think Democrats would proceed on the bill but that they will now if they get a chance. Which is super, but once again fails to address the problem of why they were inserted to begin with. I hope tea partiers mean it when they say they’re a lasting force that’ll ride herd on incumbents for years to come, because if it doesn’t occur even to budding presidential candidates like Thune to take basic fiscally responsible steps like this, the pressure that’ll have to be exerted on the caucus is even greater than I thought. In fact, anyone think Hatch would have made this move if not for the example made last year of Bob Bennett and the looming primary threat he faces from Jason Chaffetz? Elections do indeed have consequences.

Two clips for you here, the first via Mediaite of the exchange between Hemmer and Cornyn, who takes the same line about “individually defensible” spending projects as the Republicans quoted in that splashy Politico piece last week. Just as every prisoner will tell you that he’s not guilty, every congressman will tell you that all of his pork projects are “individually defensible.” As for the second clip, it requires no explanation. Just a stroll down memory lane back to 2009, via Guy Benson. Enjoy. Exit question: Aren’t the earmark provisions in the omnibus bill actually a great opportunity for Boehner? If it passes, Bill Kristol’s surely right that one of the first orders of business in the House come January will be stripping them out — which will force Reid and Obama to explain why that shouldn’t be done. I can’t wait to hear that argument.