House Democratic leaders are debating whether to enforce a party-wide ban against all earmarks for a year, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported on Monday.
Nancy Pelosi introduced the idea last Tuesday. Roll Call reported that her plan is to use the measure to help the Democratic Party “regain ethical high ground” and “outflank” Republicans, who have remained divided in recent years on whether to ban earmarks in their own party.
Leaders involved in the discussion have decided to explore the idea further with Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.). But they expect the ban will meet heavy resistance from the dirty, dark corners of the Democratic Caucus who love earmarks and are oblivious to their party’s stereotype.
Senators from both parties immediately jumped on board with the proposal. Moments after the meeting, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said he “would try to force a Senate vote on a one-year earmark ban.”
“Nancy Pelosi and I don’t agree on many things,” he said in a statement, “but if she’s willing to take a stand for taxpayers, I’ll work with her to put an end to the earmark favor factory.”
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) also released a letter that endorsed the idea:
“I strongly endorse that effort, and urge you both to push for an end to this abusive practice in your respective caucuses,” Feingold wrote. “Unauthorized congressional earmarks continue to be a serious problem. For all the lip service Congress pays to this issue, there are still thousands of earmarked spending provisions enacted every year.”
He went on to explain that $50 billion of taxpayer money (or IOU’s) went to earmarks during Fiscal Year 2004; $7 billion went to earmarks in 2009; and $3.7 billion has been spent on earmarks, so far this year.
“Earmarking pet projects in appropriations bills continues only because it has bipartisan support. Once it loses bipartisan support, the abusive practice will end,” he wrote. “I hope the two Democratic Caucuses will take the lead in putting an end to unauthorized earmarked spending in appropriations bills.”