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Ready for Another Helping of McCain-Feingold?

Did the headline put your stomach in knots? I thought so.

But after McCain-Feingold (I), McCain-Lieberman, and McCain-Kennedy, it was inevitable that eventually Senator McCain would engage in a bipartisan reform effort that would make conservatives happy, right?

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) are putting their band of reformers back together and hitting the halls of Capitol Hill in pursuit of their latest mission — curtailing the practice of earmarking federal dollars in legislation, sources said late last week…

“Our offices have been in touch about continuing to work together on earmark reform. … Sen. Feingold and Sen. McCain have a long history on reform issues including earmark reform. Back in 2006, Sen. Feingold joined Sen. McCain in introducing the Pork-Barrel Reduction Act,” a Feingold aide said.

It might even be an effort that gives Harry Reid agita.

A senior Democratic leadership agreed. “I’m not shocked,” this aide said, adding that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) expected earmark reform to be on the agenda “whether we wanted it to be or not.

There’s even more good news; the pair is likely to have the full support of Tom Coburn on this effort:

John Hart, a spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), said his boss “hopes to work with Sens. McCain, Feingold and anyone else who recognizes that earmarks are a terrible way to allocate taxpayer dollars. Republicans and Democrats have a real chance to work together and help President-elect Obama end the practice of using earmarks as a governing strategy.” Coburn has been a vociferous advocate of earmark reform and a close McCain ally.

“They have an opportunity to put through something that is rational and makes sense for everyone. It’s an issue that has become divisive and it doesn’t need to,” a senior GOP Senate aide said, noting that McConnell last year embraced earmark reform efforts in his own Conference and attempted to push through a modest set of changes.

In fact, the only downside I can see so far is that the Pork Barrel Reduction Act doesn’t seem to go as far as many would like:

…McCain, Feingold and Coburn are among the members sponsoring the “Pork-Barrel Reduction Act ” which “would allow senators to raise points of order against special projects, or earmarks, that are attached to spending bills without having been approved by the relevant committee. Under the procedure, which also applies to policy changes embedded in spending bills, 60 votes would be needed to override the point of order and keep the provision in the bill.”

The Act would mandate a greater degree of transparency. Each earmark would have to be described in detail and its sponsor would have to be identified. In addition, the House-Senate compromise bills and appropriations committee conference reports would have to be made available to senators at least two days before they are expected to vote on them. The Act also requires lobbyists disclosure when they have made efforts to secure earmark provisions.

Still, things could be a lot worse, right? And if this effort succeeds, the phrase ‘McCain-Feingold’ might no longer cause cold sweat.

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