Remember how a dozen Senators lined up to co-sponsor Senator Jim DeMint’s one-year pork moratorium? Well, each of them brought a friend, but that was about all of the support the amendment received last night, when Harry Reid scheduled the vote. In the late hours of the night when news coverage would be minimal, the Senate rejected the moratorium, 29-71:
Even the entreaties of the three senators running for president weren’t enough to persuade their colleagues Thursday to curb their appetite for earmarks — the practice of designating federal dollars for pet projects.
Senators soundly rejected a one-year moratorium backed by the presidential hopefuls — Republican John McCain and Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton — even though it put senators from both parties at odds with their presidential contenders.
The vote — 29 in favor of the proposal, 71 opposed — again demonstrated the enduring popularity of earmarks, even though they have figured prominently in recent congressional scandals, including one that landed former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham of Rancho Santa Fe in prison.
It also underscored the conflicting political interests of the presidential candidates — who see a strong stand against earmarks as a way to show fiscal discipline — and their Senate colleagues who see bringing home the bacon as a way to show constituents they are getting something back for their taxes.
All three presidential contenders voted in favor of the amendment. Barack Obama, who got stung by an earmark to his wife’s place of business and perhaps one directly related to a contributor, probably needed the vote more than Hillary Clinton, who isn’t exactly running as Ms. Clean anyway. John McCain has a long history of opposing earmarks. All three managed to cast a vote despite Reid’s sudden reschedule of the vote at the far end of the night.
The moratorium, unfortunately, has failed in the upper chamber, but there may be hope in the House. Nancy Pelosi has taken an interest in a moratorium for tactical purposes. She hopes to steal the reform issue from the GOP caucus, which proved insufficiently courageous during its retreat and passed on the opportunity for a unilateral moratorium. If the House passes a cessation of pork, the Senate may find itself embarrassed into reconsidering DeMint’s amendment.
It’s progress. A year ago, such a motion would not have threatened Reid into scheduling a vote late at night. Now we have all three presidential candidates giving it at least lip service. The Beltway has begun to understand voter anger over the corruption that pork brings.
However, some still need to get the message. Here are the Senators who voted against the pork moratorium: