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Flake Seeks GOP Earmark Moratorium

Updated: 1:12 p.m.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is asking House Republicans to sign a petition that would force a vote in the Conference on a yearlong earmark moratorium for GOP Members.

“The explosion of earmarking during our years in control contributed greatly to the tarnishing of our reputation for fiscal discipline in the eyes of the taxpayer,” Flake wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter. “The time is now to send a clear and decisive message to taxpayers from coast to coast.”

Flake began circulating the petition, which calls for Republicans to adopt an earmark ban before the March 19 deadline for submitting appropriations requests, during a meeting of the Republican Study Committee last week.

A Flake spokesman said the Arizona Republican already has 17 of the 50 Republican signatures necessary to force the Conference to meet and discuss the moratorium.

In his letter, Flake warned that if Republicans do not adopt an earmark ban, they could miss an opportunity brandish their fiscal responsibility credentials ahead of the November elections.

“With much of the President’s agenda having been put on ice, it is likely that the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations process will comprise the bulk of Congress’ work this year,” he wrote. “If Republicans continue to request earmarks, we will remain complicit in the touting of cosmetic reforms that have failed to fix the problem.”

Flake sent a similar letter to Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) several weeks ago. A GOP aide said Boehner and Flake discussed the issue but declined to elaborate on the details of their conversation.

“House Republicans have an opportunity to easily gain the fiscal high ground and should take it prior to the looming March 19th earmark request deadline,” Flake wrote Boehner on Feb. 23. “House Republicans, as supporters of fiscal integrity, limited government, and spending discipline, must give up earmarking immediately. I urge your support of a Conference-wide earmark moratorium for fiscal year 2011.”

Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said Republicans have supported an earmark moratorium and earmark reform for two years but that “the Democratic leadership has stood in the way.”

“As the public’s anger at Washington Democrats’ out-of-control spending continues to grow, we will continue to highlight their record of irresponsibility,” he said.

Flake’s new push for earmark abstinence is just the latest in a series of attempts to implement an earmark moratorium in the House Republican Conference.

In November 2008, the House Republican Conference rejected an amendment to its internal rules proposed by Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) that would have barred earmark requests until Feb. 16, 2009.

The new Republican push comes as House Democrats consider an earmark ban of their own in an effort to claim the high ground on the issue that has divided their Republican counterparts for several years. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested the idea of a yearlong caucus-wide earmark moratorium during a Democratic leadership meeting last week.

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