Passage of earmark ban in doubt

Passage of earmark ban in doubt

Senate proponents of a three-year moratorium on earmarks say they will not have enough votes to implement the reform measure when lawmakers consider the issue next week.
 
“We got a long road here,” said a Senate GOP aide who supports the measure. “We are 70 yards from the goal line, but I think momentum is on our side.”
 

ADVERTISEMENT
Whatever the outcome, proponents argue it will be an important test vote to put lawmakers on the record regarding the issue and could set up a victory in the 112th Congress.
 
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama MORE (D-Nev.) has set a high bar by negotiating an agreement with Senate Republican leaders that requires 67 votes for the earmark moratorium to win adoption. Republican leaders agreed to the high threshold, seeing it as the only way to get a vote on the proposal.
 
A senior Senate GOP aide said Democrats facing reelection in 2012 would face attacks if they voted against the moratorium.
 
“Any one of their members who is up in 2012 and doesn’t support this is going to have a lot of explaining to do," said the aide in reference to Democrats.
 
Only a few Democrats have committed to supporting the ban proposed by Sens. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnFormer GOP senator: Trump has a personality disorder Lobbying World -trillion debt puts US fiscal house on very shaky ground MORE (R-Oka.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats turn on Al Franken Trump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Mo.), which will be voted on as an amendment to the food-safety bill.
 
Senate aides whipping the amendment say McCaskill and Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D-Colo.) are the only Democrats who have committed to back the measure. They also said retiring Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who both voted in 2008 for an earmark moratorium, are likely supporters.
 
Another possibility is Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), an independent who caucuses with Democrats, who voted two years ago for an amendment that would have established an earmark moratorium for fiscal year 2009.
 
The Senate Republican Conference decided last week to adopt a two-year ban on earmarks. But the proposal does not have any effect on Democrats and there is not a clear enforcement mechanism besides peer pressure.
 
The Coburn-McCaskill amendment would establish a 60-vote threshold for any bill or conference report that includes an earmark, limited tax benefit or limited tariff benefit.
 
Spending earmarks have attracted a lot of public attention but they account for a relatively small portion of budget compared to tax earmarks.
 
Lawmakers directed $15.9 billion in spending earmarks to their home states in 2010, but the co-chairmen of President Obama’s fiscal commission estimate there are $1.1 trillion worth of annual earmarks in tax legislation.

Senate proponents of the earmark moratorium are focusing on Democrats from conservative-leaning or centrist states who could face tough elections in 2012, such as Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank GOP defeats Schumer bid to delay tax vote MORE (Mont.). A spokesman for Tester did not respond to a request for comment about where the senator stands on the ban.
 
Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Overnight Cybersecurity: Mueller probe cost .7M in early months | Senate confirms Homeland Security nominee | Consumer agency limits data collection | Arrest in Andromeda botnet investigation Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (D-Del.), who is up for reelection next cycle, has said he is willing to consider an earmark freeze to evaluate the process for funding local projects.
 
Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate ethics panel wants details on sexual harassment allegations American innovation depends on strengthening patents Tax reform and innovation – good news and a cloud MORE (D-Del.), who was sworn into the upper chamber last week, said he hasn’t made up his mind on how to vote.

"I haven’t come to a final position on it, but in the campaign, what I said was that as long as other states’ members are fighting for and getting money for infrastructure needs, then I will support a transparent, fair, congressionally-directed earmark process,” Coons said in an interview.

“I do think Congress needs to have a hand in directing the federal budget, and eliminating earmarks would play no significant role in reducing the deficit,” he said. “It’s a widely held misunderstanding. It wouldn't save any money."
 
Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Wealthy outsiders threaten to shake up GOP Senate primaries MORE (D-W.Va.), who took the oath of office last week to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D), one of the most prolific earmarkers in history, has offered only qualified support for earmarks.
 
“As a Democrat, I have always believed in transparency. I am not a big earmark person,” he told The Charleston Gazette. “We’ve got to get our financial house in order. You can’t continue this reckless spending.”
 
Manchin says earmarks should be restricted to funding transportation and infrastructure projects, including projects to build information technology networks.
 
Earmark proponents expect to lose a handful of Republicans on the vote, such as Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranObstruction of justice watch: Trump attacks the FBI America isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (Miss.), the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee.
 
GOP Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Week ahead: Trump expected to shrink two national monuments GOP on verge of opening Arctic refuge to drilling MORE, who won a tough reelection to her Alaska seat as a write-in candidate without national party support, has said she will oppose an earmark ban.

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) opposed the ban when Republicans debated it last week.
 
—J. Taylor Rushing contributed to this report.