Robert Novak

Launching his 2008 campaign in Kentucky that he has warned may be his most difficult re-election, McConnell in an ad stressed his performance as an appropriator delivering earmarks (highlighted by $280 million for his state's universities). His office regularly issues statements bragging about how much bacon he brings home to Kentucky in appropriations bills. But to actually put bacon on the table, McConnell needs something like the Democratic-drafted omnibus bill that contains 11,932 earmarks. A CR would add no new earmarks.

Sen. Thad Cochran, ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, has said it would be "fair" to split the difference between Bush and the Democrats on spending. That would provide plenty of earmarks for McConnell -- and Cochran. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, the five-term Cochran is the new congressional king of pork this year with $774 million worth of earmarks in 12 spending bills. He has dethroned his predecessor as the top GOP appropriator, Sen. Ted Stevens, a six-termer who is the senior Republican in the Senate and now ranks second with $502 million.

These seasoned purveyors of pork outgun and outnumber GOP reformers such as Sen. Jim DeMint, a first-termer from South Carolina, who told me: "A CR is the only way to keep spending at any sensible level. An omnibus bill would be a defeat for the Republicans. I don't see any reason to cave in on our principles. The Republicans have no discipline when it comes to appropriations." DeMint was careful not to mention McConnell and the other Republican appropriators by name, but there was no doubt whom he was talking about.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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