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Senate Suspends Earmark Spending for Two Years

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Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii (AP File Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The man in charge of doling out federal dollars in the Senate, Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, announced Tuesday that his committee will implement a moratorium on earmarks for the next two fiscal years.

House Republicans swore off earmarks as part of their rules package after taking back the majority. GOPers in the Senate also vowed to abstain from the practice. On the Democratic side of the ledger, President Obama told Congress during his State of the Union address that he would veto bills that contain earmarks.

Those actions, Inouye said in a statement, forced the appropriator's hand, "Given the reality before us, it makes no sense to accept earmark requests that have no chance of being enacted into law."

It is a stunning reversal for a man who has long prided himself on his ability to bring money back to his home state. According to government tracking site Legistorm, Sen. Inouye sponsored over $2.7 billion in earmarks between fiscal years 2008 and 2010.

Though earmarks are out for now, Inouye left the door open for a reexamination of the ban at a later date. "We will most certainly revisit the issue and explore ways to improve the earmarking process," he promised. The World War II Army hero also took the opportunity to fire back at earmark opponents, including those in his own party, "At the appropriate time, I will once again urge the Senate to consider a transparent and fair earmark process that protects our rights as legislators to answer the petitions of our constituents, regardless of what the President or some Federal (sic) bureaucrat thinks is right."