Let’s rack up a big win for bi-partisanship. The Senate has just voted to keep earmarks.
With eight Republicans voting to keep the procedure — which allows them to funnel money to favored projects outside the regular budget process — earmarks will stay in place. Banning earmarks has been among the rallying cries of tea partiers, who insist that ending the longtime practice is necessary to rein in government spending.
In fact, earmarks represent a tiny portion of federal spending. But, so far, the tea party activists haven’t been able to muster enough power to even rein in that small portion. They managed to browbeat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and get him on their side. After initially resisting the ban on earmarks, McConnell — who showed great skill in bringing pork barrel projects home to Louisville — decided to get on board.
But eight Republicans did not. (Seven Democrats voted to ban earmarks.) From the NYT:
Under an agreement between the Democratic and Republican Senate leaders, a two-thirds majority was required to advance the ban proposed by Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma. Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Mark Udall of Colorado, both Democrats, were also strong supporters of the ban.
The vote was 39 in favor and 56 against.
House and Senate Republicans have already voted among themselves to ban earmarks in the next Congress. With Republicans set to control a majority in the House and more than enough Senate seats to successfully filibuster any bill, it is unclear that any legislation including earmarks will be able to get through Congress even without a full, formal ban.
Eight Republicans voted against the earmark ban: Bob Bennett of Utah; Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee; Susan Collins of Maine; James Inhofe of Oklahoma; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; Richard Lugar of Indiana; Richard C. Shelby of Alabama; and George V. Voinovich of Ohio.
Let’s hear it for cooperation across the aisle. (Ah, I’m being sarcastic.)