Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said he and his Republican colleagues will discuss an earmark ban when Congress returns to Washington but gave scant support to the proposal.
McConnell, who has voted in the past for a Senate-wide earmark moratorium, is skeptical about banning earmarks just within the Senate GOP conference.
“The problem is it doesn’t save any money,” McConnell said during a Sunday interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
McConnell takes a different view of the issue than House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and some Tea Party-backed candidates who won election to Congress.
He said the debate would come up within the conference the week after next.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), an outspoken proponent of an earmarks ban, is confident he has the votes to implement it within his conference, according to aides.
McConnell, a longtime member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, noted that President Obama supports an earmark moratorium in Congress because it will give the administration more control over spending decisions.
“The earmark issue is about discretion, about an argument between the executive branch and the legislative branch over how funds should be spent,” he said.
“There are many members of my conference who have said, ‘I don’t want the president to make all the decisions about how the funds are spent that might be allocated in my state,’” McConnell added.
The GOP leader said the $787 billion economic stimulus Congress passed in 2009 was “riddled with executive branch earmarks.”
When pressed by host Bob Schieffer, however, McConnell said he would be willing to consider an earmark moratorium that applied to lawmakers from both parties.
Senate Democrats, led by Appropriations Committee member and Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), have steadfastly resisted efforts to ban earmarks.
McConnell said Congress should instead focus on reducing spending and reducing the federal debt.
“This debate doesn’t save any money, which is why it’s kind of exasperating to some of us who really want to cut spending and get the federal government’s discretionary accounts under control,” he said in reference to the skirmish over earmarks within the Senate GOP conference.