Sen. McConnell Says He Will Support a Moratorium on Earmarks
By KEITH WHITE,
Posted: November 15, 2010
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., this afternoon announced he will reverse himself and join House Republican leaders in adopting a ban on congressional earmarks.
“What I’ve concluded is that on the issue of congressional earmarks, as the leader of my party in the Senate, I have to lead first by example,” McConnell said as the Senate began its post-election session. “I know the good that has come from the projects I have helped support throughout my state. I don’t apologize for them.”
“But there is simply no doubt that the abuse of this practice 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,” he added. “That’s why I am announcing that I will join the Republican Leadership in the House in support of a moratorium on earmarks in the 112th Congress.”
Earmarks are legislative provisions sponsored by lawmakers that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects, or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees. A number of Democrats and Republicans have undertaken efforts to rein in so-called "pork-barrel" spending, prompting a battle between the parties over who can best reform the earmark process. Good-government groups and some lawmakers have called for earmarks to be reined in, saying they are symbols of wasteful spending and can lead to corruption.
McConnell cited two earmarks he added to appropriations bills to deal with health and safety concerns at a uranium processing plant and the Bluegrass Army Depot. “Administrations of both parties have failed to see the full merit in either of these projects, which is one of the reasons I have been reluctant to cede responsibility for continuing the good work that is being done on them and on others to the Executive Branch,” he said.
“So I’m not wild about turning over more spending authority to the executive branch, but I have come to share the view of most Americans that our nation is at a crossroads; that we will not be able to secure the kind of future we want for our children and grandchildren unless we act, and act quickly,” he added.
McConnell cited Republican efforts to cut spending for the past two years and said that “banning earmarks is another small but important symbolic step we can take to show that we’re serious, another step on the way to serious and sustained cuts in spending and to the debt.”
And he then challenged President Barack Obama. “We have said we are willing to give up discretion; now we’ll see how he handles spending decisions. And if the president ends up with total discretion over spending, we will see even more clearly where his priorities lie,” said McConnell.
McConnell’s decision should negate an anticipated battle in the Republican Conference Tuesday where Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., was expected to make an effort to get his colleagues to agree to an earmark ban.
In March, House Republicans approved a conference-wide moratorium on earmarks, one day after a House committee enacted a ban on for-profit earmarks. House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, in line to become the next Speaker, announced after the election that the moratorium would be continued in the new, Republican-controlled House.
DeMint this afternoon praised McConnell for his change of heart. "Senator McConnell's support for the earmark moratorium demonstrates the kind of bold leadership our party needs," he said. "His statement today and tomorrow's vote to enact the moratorium will send a clear signal to voters that Republicans heard the message of the last election."
DeMint also challenged Obama to match the GOP stand. "Now that Republicans are taking real action to end wasteful spending, I hope President Obama follows through on his rhetoric and promises to veto any bill with Democrat earmarks," he said.
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