Earmark Moratorium Is Crushed in the Senate

Posted March 13, 2008 at 10:24pm

The Senate overwhelmingly defeated a one-year moratorium on earmarks Thursday evening on a 29-71 vote. Presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) supported the proposal; GOP leaders voted for it, while Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and the bulk of his Democratic colleagues opposed it. McCain, Obama and Clinton were co-sponsors of the moratorium, which was offered as an amendment to the budget resolution by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — an appropriator who initially resisted the moratorium — ultimately voted for it after days of fence-sitting. Following the vote, McConnell argued that while it would have given the chamber a chance to reform its rules, lawmakers must commit to making those changes before any appropriations bills come to the floor. “The DeMint-McCain amendment would have provided an important pause to allow us all — those who oppose earmarks and those who favor them — to take a step back, build a better oversight system and allow these reforms to be implemented. We must now work toward the implementation of these additional reforms so that they can be in place and in use before consideration of any spending bills this year,” McConnell said. Because of disagreements between President Bush and Senate Democrats, few, if any, spending bills are expected to be brought up. In introducing the amendment, DeMint argued that the Senate needed to impose a short-term ban to give the chamber space to overhaul its earmarking rules. “The fight to change the status quo and finally stop wasteful Washington spending began in earnest tonight. The big spenders in Congress may still desperately cling to their pork, but our presidential candidates have made it clear the current system is unacceptable. Americans want the bridges to nowhere and earmark scandals to stop,” DeMint said. “It’s time for some straight talk on earmarks,” he added in a not-so-subtle nod to McCain that brought laughter from lawmakers and aides on the floor. The Senate vote likely takes pressure off Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to consider an earmark moratorium in the House. House Members would be less willing to unilaterally give up earmarks if their Senate counterparts refused to do so.