Tea Party Caucus sure does love earmarks

TEA PARTY CAUCUS SURE DOES LOVE EARMARKS…. Well, that ought to be embarrassing.

Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget.

According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.

“It’s disturbing to see the Tea Party Caucus requested that much in earmarks. This is their time to put up or shut up, to be blunt,” said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste. “There’s going to be a huge backlash if they continue to request earmarks.”

And continue they might. The caucus leader, unhinged Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), has already said she’ll remain a staunch opponent of earmarks — except for transportation projects in her Minnesota district, which she considers fully justified.

In fairness, the issue goes well beyond Bachmann. Rep. Joe “You lie!” Wilson (R-S.C.) requested $23.3 million in earmarks; Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) sought about $7 million in earmarks, and even Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) got in on the act, requesting nearly $7 million in earmarks himself.

Just to clarify, I don’t much care either way. Whether these right-wing lawmakers support, oppose, seek, or refuse earmarks is really of no consequence. The whole fight strikes me as kind of silly.

But I do think there’s something to be said for intellectual consistency, and think there’s a problem when members of Congress align themselves with far-right zealots, taking a stand against earmarks, only to turn around and see those identical members of Congress requesting over $1 billion in earmarks.

There’s also the larger entertainment factor — do Tea Partiers even realize what their own allies have been up to?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.