A cold splash of earmark reality

A COLD SPLASH OF EARMARK REALITY…. Republicans have invested quite a bit of hysteria into convincing the public that earmarks are an evil, abusive process, responsible for wasteful spending and political corruption.

And right about now, they’re questioning the wisdom of that strategy.

After agreeing to kill earmarks, some of the most conservative GOP lawmakers are already starting to ask themselves: What have we done?

Indeed, many Republicans are now worried that the bridges in their districts won’t be fixed, the tariff relief to the local chemical company isn’t coming and the water systems might not be built without a little direction from Congress.

So some Republicans are discussing exemptions to the earmark ban, allowing transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and water projects. While transportation earmarks are probably the most notorious — think “Bridge to Nowhere” — there is talk about tweaking the very definition of “earmark.”

Imagine that. Republicans still support their moratorium on earmarks, just so long as there’s some wiggle room on the meaning of the words “moratorium” and “earmarks.”

Indeed, conservatives are scrambling to come up with work-around solutions to the problems caused by their own rhetoric.

That includes phone calls (creatively called “phone marking”) and letters (“letter marking”) to executive agencies to request funding. Lawmakers are also talking about creating a more detailed grant process in authorizing committees to make sure money gets to the right place. Or they could work their way in the back door by quietly asking the Senate — where Democrats don’t have an expansive ban on earmarks — to add money for certain projects.

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

I do, however, care about hypocrisy and intellectual consistency, and the hilarity of watching Republicans deal with the unintended consequences of their own ridiculous demagoguery.

Rhetorical overreach is easy. Dealing with the fallout isn’t. Maybe GOP leaders should have thought this through a little more in advance?

Postscript: On a related note, CNN’s Anderson Cooper ran a terrific segment last night on Rep. Hal Rogers (R) of Kentucky, poised to become the next chair of the House Appropriations Committee, which will give him considerable influence over how our money is spent. Given that Rogers is notorious for his love of wasteful pork for his district, he’s an odd choice for a party that claims to care about fiscal responsibility.