Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pig's Ears

Well, slap my face and call me Fanny! Mitch McConnell and Jim DeMint and I agree on something: earmarks are bad and should cease. These tiny bits of pork which are slipped into a bill just before it comes up for a vote are a drain on the budget. They also are a way to reward campaign contributors and to keep the pipe open and clear for the next donation.

Mitch McConnell, who often brags about all the money he's brought home via this process, has finally changed his tune on the issue and promised to push for an end to earmarks.

Senate Republicans opened the lame-duck session of Congress on Monday by signaling their commitment to the antispending posture that fueled their big gains on Election Day, underscoring the Tea Party movement’s influence on the Republican leadership.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, drove the point home as soon as the Senate convened by announcing that he would support a proposed ban on Congressional earmarks, reversing his longtime practice of avidly pursuing money for his state.

Earmarks, officially known as "congressionally directed spending," have long grated on me because they are such a backdoor route to sleaziness. I don't have any particular objection to pork, which does direct funds to a particular state or district at the request of a representative. I just think the way to accomplish that is through the usual route for spending bills: introduced early in the process and openly discussed in each of the committees through which the bill must pass. If the representative can convince his or her colleagues that the expenditure is worthy and does in fact contribute to the general welfare during this vetting process, than it should be included in the bill. This way, there are no hidden surprises, no bridges to nowhere.

Clearly McConnell's about-face is a nod to the Tea Partiers, but that really doesn't bother me. That's his business. But do I think it's going to make a difference or that earmarks will now end? Not hardly. All of this posturing (and that's all it is) is tied to a non-binding resolution in the Republican caucus. When the rubber hits the road in the 112th Congress, I suspect those bridges and high-tech security projects for the county fairs will somehow magically appear in a bill the night before a vote.

And then the Tea Partiers will find themselves in the same position that liberals have found themselves in since January, 2008.


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