Monday, November 15, 2010

McConnell and Earmarks

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that despite his longstanding support for earmarks as a member of the Senate appropriations committee, he was going to support a ban on earmarks.

I've written about my views on earmarks before.  In short, I view them as a bad practice in that their existence (a) politcizes spending and (b) incentivizes more of it than would otherwise occur.

Critics note that "earmarks account for just three-10ths of 1 percent of federal spending."  Yet, they're the tail that wags the dog.  If members aren't guaranteed their share of ribbon cuttings and publicity, the allure of running up big bills their constituents ultimate pay becomes much diminished.

Here are my questions for Senator McConnell:

(1) Why the late conversion given your past support?
(2) Given that Republicans are in the minority, the Senate's practice will likely still embrace earmarks regardless.  Are you pledging that Republicans (and yourself) will abstain from earmarks even as they see their Democratic colleagues engaging in it?
(3) House Democrats were down on "earmarks" before the 2006 election that brought them to power, yet once given the majority embraced "legislatively directed spending" (i.e. earmarks).  What pledge can you give that Republicans will retain their opposition to earmarks when it really counts (i.e., when they are in the majority)?

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