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GOP Adopts Sweeping Earmark Ban

Updated: 4:44 p.m.

House Republicans agreed to a self-imposed, across-the-board earmark ban during a special closed-door meeting of the Conference on Thursday morning.

The ban was approved by voice vote, according to GOP attendees, and will affect all earmarks, including those that are tariff- and tax-related.

At a press conference following the meeting, Republican leaders said the decision shows the level of GOP commitment to fiscal responsibility.

“We are not going to get to a cleaned up process before we break from the past,” Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters. “I believe that this earmark ban that our members have agreed to today is a big step in the right direction.”

It is unclear how the Republican moratorium will affect huge various authorizing bills, including a bipartisan transportation authorization bill that is traditionally packed with thousands of earmarks from both sides of the aisle.

The special GOP meeting lasted nearly an hour and a half as Members lined up 10-deep at the microphones at times to state their opinion on the earmark ban, according to GOP sources inside the room.

Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) all offered amendments to the earmark resolution, but all three proposals failed by voice vote.

Surprising his colleagues in announcing his support for the ban was Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), a longtime earmark backer. Lewis told reporters during a break in the meeting that the move was only temporary.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has pushed for the moratorium for several years, said the Conference would enforce the moratorium through Lewis, who would simply decline to forward any earmark requests to the Democrats on the Appropriations Committee.

Asked whether the Senate would follow House Republicans’ lead, Flake said, “There will be incredible pressure on them to follow suit.”

The GOP move comes a day after House Democrats announced plans to eschew any earmark benefiting for-profit companies.

Flake predicted Democrats would eventually adopt a broader, one-year moratorium as well.

“I think they’ll have to match it at some point,” Flake said, arguing it would be untenable for Democrats to put forward bills with thousands of Democrat-only projects.

But Flake said it might be hard for Democrats to do so until after the health care bill is passed.

He pointed to reports that Democrats were considering an earmark ban as a key prod to get rank-and-file Republicans to finally go along with a ban.

“I think it’s safe to say we could not have been able to take this step without the motivation provided by the Democrats,” Flake said.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

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