Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) discussed Senate Republicans’ scheduled vote on a two-year earmarks moratorium during a Heritage Foundation press call this afternoon. The call took place just minutes before Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell announced his support for the measure -- a significant about-face. The conservative Senators had expressed hopeful optimism that the secret ballot decision, which will take place on Tuesday, will adopt Sen. DeMint’s controversial proposal. They cited recent polling data that they argue clearly demonstrates voters’ opposition to a practice deemed to be “wrong and wasteful.”
McConnell, citing the will of voters, agreed: “I am announcing that I will join the Republican Leadership in the House in support of a moratorium on earmarks in the 112th Congress,” he said in a prepared statement. “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. Republican Leaders in the House and Senate are now united on this issue, united in hearing what the voters have been telling us for two years — and acting on it.”
Senate Republican leadership’s reversal all but guarantees easy passage of the DeMint proposal, which has already been embraced by the House GOP. It also marks an early triumph of Tea Party activists and fiscal conservatives, who had demanded that Republicans take this large, albeit mostly symbolic, step to curb federal spending. DeMint has since applauded McConnell’s move, calling it an example of “bold leadership.”
During the conference call, DeMint explained why the ban is important. “There are Congressmen and Senators who believe it’s their job to bring home federal bacon,” he said, warning that if Republicans continue to endorse the process, voters would be justified in doubting whether the party truly “believes in limited government.” In a remark that would prove prescient, DeMint hinted, “I don’t think there’s nearly the division in our conference that some have suggested.”
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography