It’s another week in the Senate, and there’s another battle over earmarks. Senators Toomey and McCaskill are proposing an amendment to the STOCK Act (“insider trading bill”S. 2038) to permanently ban earmarks in the Senate. Not surprisingly, there is pushback from Harry Reid…and a number of Republicans as well.
As always, there are those who argue that earmarks are just inconsequential “drop in the bucket” expenditures; that we must focus on more impactful issues. This from Senator Cornyn:
He continued, "I wish we would focus on what the American people are most concerned about rather than some of these other issues that have their importance but are tangential to the main issues we ought to be focused on."
"I think we ought to [instead] be looking at other ways to ... address people's concerns about jobs and the debt," Cornyn said.
Yes, there are more pressing issues, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can spend a half hour voting on one amendment to scrub earmarks from the Senate once and for all. Moreover, it is precisely because eliminating earmarks is such an easy, low-hanging fruit that we should deal with it immediately. If senators are unwilling to relinquish millions in pork projects, how will they have the courage to cut billions from welfare programs and reform entitlements?
There are also the usual suspects who hold earmarks to be a moral and constitutional responsibility.
"It's just stupid, it's childish, it's demagoguery," Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said. "There is not a lot of courage in our conference [on the issue.] They all know better. They all know by banning earmarks ... they are just giving the authority to the president. But they are afraid of it because people don't understand the issue out there."
"We have an obligation as Members of Congress to fulfill our Constitutional duty. One of those duties is to make sure that we do Congressionally directed spending. I object and do not believe that all these decisions should be made at the White House," Reid said.
Then there's this gem from the esteemed Majority Leader:
“I’ve done earmarks all my career, and I’m happy I’ve done earmarks all my career. They’ve helped my state and they’ve helped different projects around the country.”
Toomey’s amendment would permanently ban all earmarks, defined as any congressionally directed spending item, limited tax benefit, or limited tariff benefit. It would also create a point of order against any legislation containing an earmark, requiring a two-thirds vote to waive the point of order.
If this is really such a small issue, then we should bury it this week – once and for all. Find out if your senator is supporting the bipartisan amendment to ban earmarks.