Senators Turn Away from One Year Earmark Ban

Senators guard their Constitutional power of the purse quite zealously, and so it is no surprise that a measure proposed last week in the House by Democrats, a one year moratorium on earmarks to "for profit" entities, is receiving little welcome in the upper chamber.

Senate Republicans are set to meet behind closed doors on Wednesday night to discuss the moratorium, one that is supported by many rank and file Republicans. House Republicans also supported a full one year ban on earmarks, another item not likely to fly with their Senate counterparts.

When GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, was asked Tuesday if he supported a ban, he refused to answer three times, saying only, "We're going to have a meeting tomorrow afternoon at 5:30 and discuss the matter, and we'll see where we go from there."

The Majority Leader, Harry Reid, D-NV, who, like McConnell was a long time member of the Appropriations Committee, practically rolled up the red carpet and packed it away.

Reid noted that Congress recently enacted, under Democrats, tougher reforms on the use of earmarks, requiring that they be posted online and defended by members. But many have gotten around the process by writing the earmark ambiguously so that only a particular project can qualify under the strict outlines delineated in annual spending bills, but not specifically designating the project by name.

Reid said senators would "take a look" at an earmark ban, but then pretty much slammed the door in the next breath, "I think that we have to be very, very careful that we don't do this country great harm. Constitutionally, we have an obligation to have congressionally-directed funding. That is an obligation we've had since the beginning of this country. It would be a shame if we suddenly decided all the spending directions in this country were going to come from the White House. That would not be good."

Reid said he would take direction from Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-HA, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who recently blasted the House proposal as "quizzical."

“In my view, it does not make sense to discriminate against for-profit organizations. I am not sure why we should treat for-profit earmarks any differently than non-profit earmarks,” the chairman said, making it pretty clear this moratorium is going nowhere in the S Senate.

To see a recent earmark list and analysis by a nonpartisan watchdog group, click here.