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Senate GOP to Vote Next Week on Earmarks, Balanced Budget

Senate Republicans are expected to vote on a series of broad policy positions during a meeting of their conference Nov. 16, including a proposed earmark ban, support for a balanced budget amendment and a commitment to limiting the reach of the federal government.

At the top of the pile of conference resolutions — none of which would be binding on Members — is an across-the-board earmark ban backed by Sen. Jim DeMint.

The South Carolina Republican announced Tuesday that he would propose a change of the conference’s rules stating that Republicans would not seek any type of earmarks, including tax cuts for specific companies or industries.

Ten members of the conference ­— Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas), as well as Sens.-elect Pat Toomey (Pa.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.), and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) — have co-sponsored the resolution.

Cornyn is also the author of a balanced budget resolution that calls for the passage of an amendment requiring a supermajority of both chambers to increase taxes, as well as an overall limit on federal spending.

Other policy proposals likely to come up for a vote include a resolution on entitlement spending and, in a nod to the tea party movement, a resolution dealing with the “reach of the federal government’s powers,” a Senate aide said.

Although Republicans are expected to trumpet the votes as an example of their determination to tackle spending — and tea party activists could use them as a litmus test for potential primary challenges over the next two years — none of the proposals would force Members to vote a certain way.

In fact, while Paul has signed on to DeMint’s earmark resolution, he told the Wall Street Journal over the weekend that earmarks are largely a symbolic issue, and that he, like fellow Kentuckian Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, would work to ensure his state receives its fair share of earmarks.

“I will advocate for Kentucky’s interests,” he told the paper.

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