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 McConnellRomney calls on Steve King to resign after comments on white supremacy Don't underestimate the power of nationwide outrage born from financial desperation Top Dem introduces short-term spending bills to reopen government 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 DurbinSenate Dems set to take aim at new Trump attorney general pick Republicans seek to temper fallout from latest Russia bombshells Dem demands 'ironclad assurances' from Barr on Mueller investigation ahead of confirmation hearings 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 CollinsSenators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks TSA absences raise stakes in shutdown fight Don't underestimate the power of nationwide outrage born from financial desperation MORE (Maine), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Senators say questions remain after Syria briefing | Trump inches closer to declaring emergency to build wall | Air Force accepts Boeing tankers despite flaws Senators say questions remain on Trump strategy in Syria after briefing Emergency declaration option for wall tests GOP MORE (Okla.), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks Don't underestimate the power of nationwide outrage born from financial desperation Democrats are facing political consequences over shutdown 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 McCaskillUS has signed off on thousands of child bride requests Three GOP Senate candidates, NRA may have illegally coordinated ads: report Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least MORE (Mo.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonFlorida lawmaker diagnosed with pancreatic cancer Rick Scott threw party at Florida governor’s mansion after DeSantis and family had moved in: report Restoration of voting rights by felons marks shift in Florida 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 BennetCracks beginning to show in GOP shutdown resolve WHIP LIST: Who’s in and out in the 2020 race Would-be 2020 Dem candidates head for the exits MORE (D) and Mark UdallMark Emery UdallSetting the record straight about No Labels Trump calls Kavanaugh accusations ‘totally political’ Record number of LGBT candidates running for governor MORE (D).

Jordan Fabian contributed.

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