Senate GOP fails to reach agreement on earmark reform

Senate Republicans met for an hour on Wednesday evening to discuss earmark reform but cut the session short without resolution.

The Senate Republican Conference has been under pressure from conservatives to adopt a one-year moratorium on earmarks after the House GOP conference did so last week.

Lawmakers left the Mansfield Room off the Senate floor around 6:30 p.m. to attend a variety of previously scheduled events and meetings.

The GOP senators discussed earmark reforms that a special task force headed by Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) recommended in a report last year.

The task force included Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), a defender of earmarks, and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a critic of such directed spending.

The special panel, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) established, suggested that earmarks be placed in bill text to close loopholes in existing earmark restrictions.

The task force also recommended lawmakers posting information on the Internet about earmark requests two days before legislation hits the floor. It suggested lawmakers disclose whether earmarks would be open to competitive bidding and whether it would benefit family or staff.

“There was no resolution, not every member had a chance to speak,” said Lugar.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that many GOP senators have voted in the past for a one-year moratorium on earmarks.

“The question is what else should we do? We don’t agree on that yet,” said Alexander. “It was a healthy discussion and we’re going to continue it.”

Twenty-five of 41 Republicans voted Tuesday in support of a one-year moratorium on earmarks suggested by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Most Democrats and 25 Republicans voted against the amendment, which was set aside by a vote of 68-29.