Dem leader Durbin: Senate is 'out of the business of earmarks'

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Wednesday said the Senate will not pass spending legislation that contains earmarks, even though he personally opposes banning the practice. 

The Democrat said that he does not think Obama will have to make good on his threat in the State of the Union to veto any legislation that contains earmarked spending.

“[House Speaker] Boehner is not going to send a bill over with earmarks, and we are out of the business of earmarks,” he said.

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His statement came one day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dismissed an earmark ban as "a lot of pretty talk" that would cede too much power to the executive branch.

A ban on earmarked spending would give "the president more power, and he's got enough power already," Reid said Tuesday. 

Durbin spoke after a press conference called with Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to denounce a Republican Study Committee proposal unveiled last week to cut $2.5 trillion in spending over 10 years.

Schumer said that after surveying federal agencies, Democrats found the plan would result in the loss of 1 million jobs, two-thirds of those in the private sector.

The lost jobs would include 4,000 FBI agents and 3,000 food safety inspectors, Schumer said.

The senators said that budget cutting must be done in a carefully considered manner. Durbin compared the GOP's budget-cutting moves to someone swinging wildly at a piñata.

The Illinois Democrat is meeting this week with Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), and Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), all of whom served on the debt commission, to try to find a bipartisan Senate plan on the deficit.

Durbin said Obama had taken the first step toward tackling budget deficits in the State of the Union by proposing a five -year freeze in domestic discretionary spending. He said, however, he is still studying this “painful” proposal for its exact effects.

He said he believes the president is moving toward embracing the combination of cuts and tax increases proposed by the deficit commission last month, for which Durbin voted as a member of the commission.