Reid signals possibility for vote on earmark ban

He pointed out that there won't be an open amendment process "because we simply don't have time for that."

While an earmark ban is on McCaskill's Christmas list, she acknowledged the difficulty of getting Democrats to sign on to the moratorium.

"I don’t think we’d be successful," she told reporters today. "There hasn’t been a huge appetite yet on our side of the aisle to stop this process."

Only one other Democrat, Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.), has expressed support for the move. 

Reid signaled he's willing to discuss the issue with the caucus — it wasn't discussed during today's lunches, according to several lawmakers — debate a ban and hold a vote on it. 

"But I don't accept what you're talking about, that it's reform," he said. "I think it's a tremendous step backwards. It just gives more power to the executive branch. I am not one that believes in that. I think we have three separate and equal branches of government, and I think they should be equal in power. That's what it means. And I am not in favor of delegating my constitutional responsibility to the White House."

In fiscal 2010, there were about $16 billion in earmarks, less than 1 percent of the federal budget. 

The Senate Republican Conference will hold a vote on a two-year voluntary ban, initiated by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that we would support the ban although he is concerned about turning over specific spending issues to the executive branch. He's also said it doesn't achieve the desired level of spending cuts needed to reduce the deficit.