Earmark reformers in the Senate failed to temporarily shut down the favor factory tonight, losing their vote for a one-year moratorium, 29-71. Appropriators managed to emerge victorious after nearly all Democrats voted against the measure.
Just five Democrats voted for Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) amendment to temporarily freeze the earmarking process. Supporters included the three presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) also voted in favor of the amendment.
DeMint managed to secure the support of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), an appropriator who had remained silent until tonight about the temporary timeout. Even though McConnell has secured millions for his home-state projects, he said he favored the freeze.
The DeMint-McCain amendment would have provided an important pause to allow us all — those who oppose earmarks and those who favor them — to take a step back, build a better oversight system, and allow these reforms to be implemented. We must now work toward the implementation of these additional reforms so that they can be in place and in use before consideration of any spending bills this year.
However, McConnell also suggested the Constitution allows Congress to earmark — an argument earmark reformers have attempted to counter this week. Earlier today, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) wrote an op-ed for National Review Online debunking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) incorrect assertion that the Founding Fathers supported earmarking.
Following tonight’s defeat, DeMint vowed to continue his fight against wasteful spending.
Tonight, too many in Congress embraced the earmark favor factory and proved why we have the lowest approval rating in history. Earmarks represent the worst of wasteful Washington spending. The big spenders in Congress may still desperately cling to their pork, but our presidential candidates have made it clear the current system is unacceptable. Americans want the bridges to nowhere and earmark scandals to stop.
I’m proud of the twenty-nine brave senators who stood up for Americans and against pork-barrel politics. Taxpayer dollars should be spent based on merit, not political influence.