Sens. Toomey, McCaskill stir pot with proposal for permanent earmarks ban

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillGOP single-payer amendment fails in Senate GOP senator forces Dems to vote on single payer Mattis rips Pentagon officials for M wasted on Afghanistan camouflage MORE (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.

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Congress is operating under a temporary, unofficial ban on earmarks through the end of the 112th Congress next year and many appropriators miss the opportunity to direct funding to home states and districts.  

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidConservative Senate candidate calls on GOP to end filibuster Ex-Reid aide: McConnell's 'original sin' was casting ObamaCare as 'partisan, socialist takeover' GOP faces growing demographic nightmare in West MORE (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 McConnellMitch McConnellGOP senators: House agreeing to go to conference on ObamaCare repeal Ryan drops border-tax proposal as GOP unifies around principles Pence raises million for PAC at fundraiser: report MORE (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 BennetMichael BennetOvernight Finance: House votes to repeal arbitration rule | Yellen, Cohn on Trump's list for Fed chief | House passes Russia sanctions deal | GOP centrists push back on border wall funding Tax credits bring much needed relief Senate Dem: No clarity, 'little competence' behind travel ban MORE (D-Colo.), Bill NelsonBill NelsonGOP senator forces Dems to vote on single payer Gore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Honda recalls 1.2 million cars over battery fires MORE (D-Fla.), 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.) and Mark WarnerMark WarnerBoth sides of the aisle agree — telemedicine is the future Google announces million initiative for displaced workers Overnight Tech: House GOP wants to hear from tech CEOs on net neutrality | SEC eyes cryptocurrency | Elon Musk, Zuckerberg trade jabs over AI | Trump says Apple opening three plants in US MORE (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.