I originally titled this post “Good News/Bad News on Earmark Reform,” but a shocking update just broke. Instead of rewriting the whole thing, though, I think keeping the original followed by the update will highlight the dramatic turnaround this issue has taken, largely because of the Tea Party’s efforts.
First, the good:
Presumptive Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and presumptive House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced that their GOP conference would vote next week to ban all earmarks.
This shows the remarkable and still-growing strength of a Tea Party movement that has continually demanded an end to earmarks. Cantor, as you may recall, recently supported restoring earmarks if his party regained control of Congress, but then in a total reversal penned an op-ed calling for their elimination. This is only the latest example of the massive influence not only the greater Tea Party is having on the political landscape, but also the Richmond Tea Party specifically, as an earmark ban is something we have urged Cantor to support.
Now, (sigh) the bad:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is maneuvering behind the scenes to defeat a conservative plan aimed at restricting earmarks, setting up a high-stakes showdown that pits the GOP leader and his “Old Bull” allies against Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and a new breed of conservative senators.
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.
In other words: “It’s okay for Republicans to use taxpayer money to bribe representatives for votes because, hey, the Democrats are doing it, too!”
And the Republicans wonder why no one trusts them or can distinguish between them and the Democrats.
Mitch McConnell issued a press release today in which he said he’s now supporting the earmark ban:
Most Americans are deeply unhappy with their government, more so than at any other time in decades. And after the way lawmakers have done business up here over the last couple of years, it’s easy to see why. But it’s not enough to point out the faults of the party in power. Americans want change, not mere criticism. And that means that all of us in Washington need to get serious about changing the way we do business, even on things we have defended in the past, perhaps for good reason.
[T]here is simply no doubt that the abuse of [earmarking] has caused Americans to view it as a symbol of the waste and the out-of-control spending that every Republican in Washington is determined to fight. And unless people like me show the American people that we’re willing to follow through on small or even symbolic things, we risk losing them on our broader efforts to cut spending and rein in government.
That’s why today I am announcing that I will join the Republican Leadership in the House in support of a moratorium on earmarks in the 112th Congress.
Wow. NEVER doubt that you are having an enormous impact on the direction of this nation. If we take this momentum and continue to push for constitutional governance, limited government, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and virtue and accountability, we will eventually achieve all of them.