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

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillKoch-backed group targets red-state Dems on tax reform Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Las Vegas highlights Islamist terrorism is not America's greatest domestic threat 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 ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform 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 Farrand BennetAmeriCorps hurricane heroes deserve a reward — don’t tax it Joe Buck defends 'nonviolent protests' at NFL games Patriotism is no defense for Trump’s attacks on black athletes MORE (D-Colo.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate panel approves bill to speed up driverless cars Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump proclaims 'Cybersecurity Awareness Month' | Equifax missed chance to patch security flaw | Lawmakers await ex-CEO's testimony | SEC hack exposed personal data 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 Robert WarnerTrump: Why isn't Senate looking into 'Fake News Networks'? 5 takeaways from Senate Russian meddling presser Trump: 'America is truly a nation in mourning' 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.