Coburn: Earmark ban opponents will get primary challengers

Republican opponents of a moratorium on earmarks should expect a primary challenge, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said.

Coburn, one of the conservative proponents in the Senate of a ban on earmarking, the process of directing spending in legislation to a specific project, put on notice his GOP colleagues who don't favor such a ban.

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"You bet .... They sure should," Coburn told The Weekly Standard's John McCormack when asked whether Republicans who oppose the moratorium should expect a primary challenge.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is offering a resolution to the Senate Republican Conference this week to adopt a moratorium on earmarks. The proposal has divided conservatives and pitted DeMint against some GOP leaders, who argue that banning earmarks would cede too much authority to the Obama administration on spending.

The ban is being driven by DeMint and many of the conservative candidates whom he helped push through primaries against establishment candidates and incumbent Republicans earlier this year. Many of these senators-elect make up DeMint's base of support for the earmarking moratorium, including Sens.-elect Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

"Republicans can send a signal that they get it," Coburn said. "Or they can send a signal that they continue to not get it and say they're not going to change. And if they do that, they're going to pay for it at the ballot box."

The foremost opponent of the earmarks ban is actually Coburn's Oklahoma colleague, Sen. James Inhofe (R). Despite the pair's difference on the issue, Coburn praised Inhofe as a "dang good senator."