By Erik Wasson - 11/29/11 10:42 PM EST
Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) will team up on Wednesday to unveil legislation that would permanently ban earmarks in appropriations bills.
The move sets up a potentially major conflict within both the Republican and Democratic parties next year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not yet made clear to party members where he stands on Toomey-McCaskill, according to sources, but he has been a champion of earmarks in the past.
Reid voted with 55 other senators from both parties to oppose an official two-year moratorium on earmarks in late 2010. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), another longtime user of earmarks, voted in favor of the two-year moratorium but has not yet made clear whether he can support a permanent ban.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) has repeatedly said that earmarks should be brought back if transparency can be enforced.
In contrast, moderate senators favor abandoning pork. Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) voted last November to put a moratorium in place.
An aide said that McCaskill and Toomey are just starting their effort to build support for a permanent ban and said they are not pushing for a vote anytime soon.
An aide who opposes the ban said senators are already chaffing under the temporary ban.
The aide also worried that the McCaskill-Toomey effort would complicate an already difficult December calendar for the Senate during which Reid will try to move a $900 billion omnibus spending bill devoid of earmarks.
Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense predicted that the ban will be a “tight vote,” given the bad reputation that earmarks have gotten.
The legislation to be unveiled would ban earmarks by creating a point of order against any bill that contains an earmark and that point of order could only be waived by a vote of two-thirds of the Senate.