While conservative House leaders jumped to support Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) call for an extension of the party’s yearlong earmark moratorium Wednesday, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is keeping his options open.
Cantor’s comments, made in an editorial in Politico, go beyond those made publicly by Boehner, who has pledged “to end earmarking as we know it” but has said the final decision on the issue would be made by members of the new House Republican Conference.
In addition to an extension of the ban for GOP lawmakers, Cantor proposed expanding the moratorium to include all House Members if Republicans take the majority in November.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said in an e-mail that Boehner would support reforms to ensure the current earmarking process ends. “That could mean continuing the earmark moratorium and applying it to the full House,” Steel said. “Given that Boehner has had a personal no-earmarks policy through his time in Congress, you can probably guess where he stands.”
It appeared on Wednesday that a moratorium extension could be a popular option among conservatives, as several Members released statements supporting Cantor’s proposal.
“I stand in strong support of Republican Whip Eric Cantor’s call for an extension and expansion of this moratorium,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said. “House Republicans remain committed to rededicating Congress to the Founding ideas that make this nation so exceptional, applying these principles to the most pressing challenges of the day.”
Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) confirmed through a spokesman that he also supports an extension of the earmark ban.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) said in a statement that he supports extending the earmark moratorium to the 112th Congress and expanding it to cover both sides of the aisle.
“The earmarking process is corrupt and corrupting,” Price said. “Fundamental budget reform is imperative in order to restore the trust of the American people. Members of Congress need to focus on spending less, so we can get on the path to a balanced budget.”
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has spent the last few years pushing for the elimination of earmarks, praised Cantor’s comments in a statement.
“Congressman Cantor deserves credit for calling on House Republicans to extend the earmark moratorium,” Flake said. “Voters won’t trust us to tackle larger spending programs if we can’t control ourselves on the small ones.”
Cantor’s editorial is not the first time he has indicated he would like to see a permanent ban on earmarking. He made similar comments after Boehner pledged during a speech to the American Enterprise Institute on Sept. 30 to “end earmarking as we know it and bring fundamental change to the manner in which Washington spends taxpayers’ money,” but he did not explicitly call for an end to the practice.
Cantor’s office issued a statement after the speech saying the Virginia Republican echoed “Republican Leader John Boehner’s call to end earmarks and the out-of-control spending in Washington.”
“Earmarks are a symbol of a broken Washington and emblematic of the culture of spending that has dominated Washington for far too long and must be reversed,” Cantor said in the statement.