MITCH MCCONNELL’S SHORT MEMORY…. One of the first fights after the midterm elections occurred within the Senate Republican caucus, with a dispute over whether to impose a moratorium on earmarks.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opposed the move, but on Nov. 15, threw in the towel. He explained on the floor, “I’ve talked with my members. I’ve listened to them. Above all, I have listened to my constituents. And what I’ve concluded is that on the issue of congressional earmarks, as the leader of my party in the Senate, I have to lead first by example.”
That was four weeks ago. As of yesterday, the Senate was set to consider an omnibus bill to keep the government running for the rest of the fiscal year. The $1.2 trillion spending measure includes more than 6,000 earmarks totaling $8 billion. Among the senators inserting earmarks: Mitch McConnell.
Formerly a member of the committee that doles out earmarks, McConnell reluctantly embraced a moratorium on the practice last month to send a signal that Republicans are serious about curbing spending.
Yet the legislation includes provisions requested this year by McConnell, including $650,000 for a genetic technology center at the University of Kentucky, according to an analysis of the bill by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog.
Saying he was now “vigorously in opposition” to the legislation, McConnell said Tuesday that rushed consideration of the bill “here on Christmas Eve” compelled him to try to block the bill through a filibuster. “I’m going to vote against things that arguably would benefit my state. I do not think this is the appropriate way to run the Senate,” he said.
But McConnell, like other new earmark opponents, stopped short of asking for his projects to be removed from the bill.
So much for “leading first by example.”
McConnell intends to filibuster a spending bill because of earmarks — including earmarks that he put in the bill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said something very similar, demanding that the measure be rejected because of the pet projects, one of which is there at his behest.
Republicans said they don’t see a contradiction in opposing a bill over earmarks while pushing earmarks in the same bill. Then again, Republicans don’t see a lot of things.
The Senate is likely to move on this tomorrow, and it’s not entirely clear how much opposition it will muster. Expect Dems to emphasize a few key points, including the fact that the earmarks represent less than 1% of the total spending bill, and the fact that earmark spending is down 75% since Republicans held the Senate majority — a minor detail the GOP hopes no one remembers.