Senate votes down ban on earmarks, 39-56

The Senate on Tuesday morning defeated a proposal from Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (R-Okla.) to ban congressional earmarks.

In a 39-56 vote, members defeated a temporary ban on the appropriations procedure. The moratorium was offered as an amendment to a food-safety bill that is scheduled for a final vote Tuesday morning.

Senate Republicans have already passed a voluntary ban on earmarks in their caucus, but several GOP senators have objected to it. Democrats have so far declined to ban earmarks from their members.

The legislation would have established an earmark moratorium for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, and also would have covered the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. Congress has yet to pass an appropriations bill for the current fiscal year, and in the lame-duck session lawmakers are likely to approve either an omnibus spending bill or a continuing resolution to keep the government operating.

In speeches on Monday, Coburn said the ban was the only way to rein in out-of-control spending. He did not speak on Tuesday morning, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRand Paul blocking Trump counterterrorism nominee On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal Congress is going to make marijuana moves MORE (R-Ky.), who supports the ban, alluded to the issue in remarks about the current debate over tax cuts.

"Republicans have heard the voters loud and clear," McConnell said. "They want us to focus on preventing a tax hike on every taxpayer, on reining in Washington spending and on making it easier for employers to start hiring again."

But Democrats repeated the argument they laid out in floor speeches on Monday, asserting that the earmark process has already been made transparent.

"We have put in place the most dramatic reform of this appropriations process since I've served in Congress," said Majority Whip and Appropriations Committee member Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump throws support behind criminal justice bill Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader Criminal justice reform faces a make-or-break moment MORE (D-Ill.). "There is full disclosure in my office of every single request for an appropriation. We then ask those who have made the requests to have a full disclaimer of their involvement in the appropriation, so it's there for the public record. This kind of transparency is virtually unprecedented."

Like other Democrats and some Republicans, Durbin said he would not abdicate any earmarking authority.

"I believe I have an important responsibility to the state of Illinois and the people I represent to direct federal dollars into projects critically important for our state and our future," Durbin said.

Eight GOP senators voted to preserve earmark spending, including Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDems vow swift action on gun reform next year Collins reiterates call for legislation to protect Mueller investigation GOP nerves on edge after Sinema takes lead over McSally MORE (Maine), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeDefense strategy report warns of grave erosion in US military superiority Divided Congress to clash over Space Force, nuclear arsenal Midterms poised to shake up US-Saudi defense ties MORE (Okla.), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiErnst elected to Senate GOP leadership Earmarks look to be making a comeback Trump and Pelosi set to collide as Democrats celebrate their power MORE (Alaska) and Richard Shelby (Ala.). Retiring Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio) and defeated Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah) also voted against it.

Two Democrats facing potentially tough reelection battles in 2012 also voted for the earmark moratorium: Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskill2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck Mellman: The triumph of partisanship The Memo: Dem hopes for 2020 grow in midterms afterglow MORE (Mo.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonMeet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time Election Countdown: Hyde-Smith's 'public hanging' joke shakes up Mississippi runoff | New lawsuits in Florida | Trump wants Florida election official fired | Mia Love sues to stop Utah vote count | Republican MacArthur loses NJ House race Jeb Bush to Bill Nelson: 'Stop the lawsuits' and 'don’t tarnish your years of service' MORE (Fla.)

Retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) also voted for the earmark ban, as did Colorado Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetEagles player sits out national anthem Trump administration denied it has ‘secret’ committee seeking negative information on marijuana: report Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens MORE (D) and Mark UdallMark Emery UdallTrump calls Kavanaugh accusations ‘totally political’ Record number of LGBT candidates running for governor Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation MORE (D).

Jordan Fabian contributed.

—This story was last updated at 12:02 p.m.