Not much happening in the House and Senate today. Both parties are conducing elections for leadership positions and amendments to conference rules. It appears as if Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has won his battle for the Senate Republican Conference to take a 2 year break from earmarking.
The House has 6 bills scheduled for a vote on the Suspension Calendar. The Senate is out of session for the day. Plans to deal with taxes, spending and the 12 pending appropriations bills are still taking shape.
Senator DeMint has won his fight to ban earmarks within the Republican Caucus for 2 years. According toh the Washington Post:
In an abrupt reversal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday endorsed a moratorium on earmarks that GOP conservatives are seeking to send a signal that the Republican Party is serious about curbing federal spending.
Now the fight goes to the whole Senate and House. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) has indicated that he is willing to push for a Senate wide ban on earmarks. According to the Denver Post:
Democratic Sen. Mark Udall said Monday he would support a total ban on earmarking, the process whereby members of Congress can hand-pick items — usually ones in their own districts — to receive funding. "Out-of-control spending has caused us to rack up huge deficits, which now threaten our future economic prosperity and our national security," Udall said in a statement. "The American people want us to show them that we're serious about taking action to solve this problem."
Now that both House and Senate Republicans have agreed to ban earmarks for 2 years, the fight goes to the House and Senate floor. The House can adopt a rule in the 112th Congress, which starts in January of 2011, as part of the rules package to ban earmarks for the whole Congress. That would make it against the rules to earmark in the House.
In the Senate, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has pledged to offer an Amendment this year to the Senate Rules to make it against the rules to earmark. This rules change would take 67 votes. WIth the support of many Democrats in the House and Senate, the fight against waste in Congressionally directed spending may be won in the 112th Congress.