The DeMint/McConnell Earmarks Showdown: Who Will Win?

Posted: Nov 11, 2010 4:13 PM
The Senate GOP's intraparty skirmish over imposing a two-year moratorium on earmarks is coming "down to the wire," according to Politico:

There is no way of precisely predicting the conference vote, since it’ll happen behind closed doors by a secret ballot, giving senators wide latitude to vote however they see fit. Several people involved with the head counting suggest the vote could come down to the wire.

On Wednesday, there appeared to be 14 definite votes in favor of the moratorium – and 13 against it, according to those tracking the vote. Seven senators are leaning toward backing the measure, 11 appear as likely “no” votes. It’s far from clear where three others will come down.

The magic number for both sides is 24 votes.  One of the ringleaders of the "no" group is Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has reportedly been working behind the scenes to jettison the proposal, for reasons laid out in the article:

The reasons for the cloudy outlook span the gamut. The plan wouldn’t affect Senate Democrats, who could have more power to set national and parochial spending priorities if the GOP adopted a unilateral ban. And DeMint’s relations with many Republican senators are rather frosty, with congressional insiders suggesting that some senators view his latest push as an attempt to score political points at the expense of McConnell and the rest of the GOP leadership.

One of the prominent proponents of the earmark freeze is Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.  He penned an excellent piece dispelling what he calls "myths" in the earmarking debate, and urging members to back DeMint's plan:

1. Eliminating earmarks does not actually save any money.

2. Earmarks represent a very tiny portion of the federal budget and eliminating them would do little to reduce the deficit.

3. Earmarking is about whose discretion it is to make spending decisions. Do elected members of Congress decide how taxes are spent, or do unelected bureaucrats and Obama administration officials?

4. The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility and authority to earmark.

Coburn also spells out a series of earmarking realities:

1. Earmarks are a major distraction.

2. This debate is over among the American people and the House GOP.

3. Earmarking is bad policy.

4. Earmarking is bad politics.

Those are the bare bones.  To fill up on substance, read Sen. Coburn's whole piece.