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Rift between McConnell, Paul over earmarks reflects debate within GOP

November 10, 2010 | | Comments 41
Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul speaks during the Kentucky Republican Party's Unity Rally at the state GOP headquarters May 22, 2010.

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul speaks during the Kentucky Republican Party

By James Rosen and Halimah Abdullah – McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Jim DeMint are headed for a showdown vote next week on earmarks. The vote will be the first post-election test of Tea Party lawmakers’ ability to deliver on their hard-line campaign pledges.

The issue is already splitting Republicans.

DeMint, a South Carolina Republican elected to his second term last week, said he will force an internal vote among incoming GOP senators Tuesday on freezing all requests for spending earmarks, which legislators seek to pay for pet projects in their home states.

DeMint sent a letter to Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, saying he will propose an internal policy change banning earmarked spending requests when incoming GOP senators meet Tuesday to elect their leaders and craft party rules.

The letter was signed by eight incumbent senators and by the five incoming senators, including Sen.-elect Rand Paul of Bowling Green, who won election last week with backing from DeMint and strong support from Tea Party activists. The language in the proposed resolution is identical to an earmark moratorium adopted last year by House Republicans.

Paul has said he will not submit earmark requests and will make working to end all earmarks a priority.

Paul’s position puts him at odds with McConnell, Kentucky’s senior senator.

As McConnell outlined a nuanced position on earmarks on the Sunday talk shows, Paul doubled down on his support for an earmark moratorium and renewed his pledge not to use them to funnel money to Kentucky projects.

“I do tell people within Kentucky I say, ‘Look, I will argue within the committee process for things that are good for Kentucky that they want, and also within the context of a balanced budget,’” Paul said.

DeMint’s rock-ribbed opposition to government spending has earned him a national following among conservative activists, who helped him raise more than $5 million to contribute to like-minded Senate candidates.

It has not made him many friends in his own caucus.

McConnell and DeMint have repeatedly butted heads as DeMint has forced senators to take difficult votes on spending measures and controversial policy matters. DeMint helped turn earmarks into a national political issue in December 2006 when he blocked an appropriations bill for weeks until Senate leaders removed 10,000 earmarks for local projects totaling $17 billion.

“Republicans in the House and Senate have an opportunity to stand against the earmark favor factory next week and unite to fight for an end to pork barrel spending for the entire Congress,” Wesley Denton, DeMint’s spokesman, said Wednesday. “This is an important issue for voters in the last election, and we’re hopeful it will pass.”

McConnell responded coolly to DeMint’s proposal.

“The problem is, it doesn’t save any money,” McConnell told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday. “What we really need to do is to concentrate on reducing spending and reducing debt. And this (earmark) debate doesn’t save any money, which is why it is kind of exasperating to some of us who really want to cut spending.”

McConnell said a Republican-only earmark ban would give Democratic senators broader latitude to channel money to pet projects.

McConnell said he is willing to consider a ban on earmarking as long as it applies to both parties.

McConnell also noted the Obama administration’s support of DeMint’s call for an earmark moratorium, through presidential earmarks, a move the Kentucky lawmaker said was “not surprising not surprising because every president would like for us to appropriate all the money and send it to them and let them spend it any way they want to.”

“We ought to also deal with executive branch earmarks. The stimulus bill that passed last year, the almost a trillion-dollar stimulus bill, was riddled with executive branch earmarks,” McConnell said.

McConnell voted for a failed DeMint amendment in March that would have imposed a one-year moratorium on earmarks. That measure, however, would have prohibited the local spending requests from all senators, while the DeMint rule to be voted on Tuesday would freeze earmarks from Republican senators only.

Among the eight incumbent senators who had signed onto the Senate Republican earmark freeze by Wednesday evening, only two have requested no such targeted funds since 2008 — DeMint and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

The other ban backers have sought varying amounts of earmarks: Richard Burr of North Carolina, $32.3 million; Jeff Sessions of Alabama, $24.2 million; John Cornyn of Texas, $21.9 million; Mike Enzi of Wyoming, $21.8 million; John Ensign of Nevada, $12.4 million; and Bob Corker of Tennessee, $10.3 million, according to the Web site LegiStorm.

The Bluegrass State has benefited heavily from earmarking by well-placed lawmakers.

Between 2008 and 2010, McConnell made $927 million in solo earmark requests, including thousands to help address issues related to the destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile at the Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond.

This fiscal year alone, Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset, one of the Republicans in line to lead the powerful House Appropriations committee, sponsored or co-sponsored 50 earmarks totaling $93.4 million, ranking 10th out of the 435 representatives, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan research group that tracks money in politics.

Tuesday’s GOP Senate caucus vote will immediately thrust newly minted and Tea Party backed senators into the middle of a caucus debate. Paul, fresh from his win in the tough Kentucky contest, will go from freshman orientation into the closed door vote with veteran GOP lawmakers.

“I will not earmark anything, and I will not support earmarks,” Paul told CNN on Wednesday. “I have signed a pledge, I have signed (a) word of honor that I will not do that. … I am not in favor of earmarks and will not earmark any legislation.”

Filed Under: Federal GovernmentMitch McConnellRand Paul

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  1. Rift between McConnell, Paul over earmarks reflects debate within ……

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  2. Donald True says:

    Rand Paul will find some way to wiggle out of his ‘pledge’ to oppose earmarks. He has already in the last three days changed his story three times. Kentucky voters are going to soon find out what a whiney hypocrite we have elected to the US Senate.

  3. Tommy Caudill says:

    It looks as if those liberals are becoming frugal when it comes to our budget deficit.

    US budget gap shrinks 20%

    http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Money/Story/STIStory_601858.html

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    I heard today whales are getting sunburned. Could the next liberal cause be to raise taxes to buy sunscreen for whales?

  8. Bob says:

    Perhaps Paul has rebuffed Mitch’s amorous advances and created tension in this blossoming new relationship.

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  10. THUNDER says:

    It is time GOP splits and comes up with its true color. The split should clearly indicate which part of the split is right and which is on the wrong side. Now box on!

  11. JKR says:

    To the guy who said Rand Paul has changed his position, that is nonsense. The WSJ which started that idea even printed the transcript of what Rand said, and it is exactly what he said at the Paducah debate and elsewhere on the campaign trail: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704635704575604680661943738.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

  12. Tommy Caudill says:

    Bob,

    How do you put your picture with your comments?

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  14. Tommy Caudill says:

    t

  15. Tommy Caudill says:

    The people who thought Paul was gonna do everything he said will soon find out he just anything to get elected. I warned everyone during the election he would renege on his promises.

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  17. Alice Dartt says:

    please tell me how anyone can say that removing earmarks will not help bring down the defecit.

  18. LeDurchi says:

    The sooner McConnell is replaced by a Rand Paul clone, the better.

  19. Taika says:

    Why am I not surprised that McConnell, who twisted Republican arms to get them to vote for the 2008 corporate welfare bailout, and sided with Obama to block an audit the Federal Reserve, would oppose the long overdue reforms Rand Paul and the tea party are offering?

    This is why it is so important the tea party and and every concerned citizen intensify their efforts to elect non-establishment types every election cycle. With the debt we are facing, we simply can’t afford politics as usual anymore.

  20. TCPLA says:

    Because the funds are already appropriated before earmarks are added. They’re just claiming a piece of teh pie that’s already been baked.

  21. Chris says:

    Sure thing–keep on putting up idiots for election, such as Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle, and see how quickly the electorate rejects them! You must have a very low opinion of Americans’ intelligence if you think such inexperienced, extreme, and borderline insane people will be voted in.

  22. rick says:

    No government spending for people I don’t like.

  23. Grekko says:

    No he won’t. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He was elected, and will be watched, to run a surpluss in the budget. He has an uphill battle, but eventually he will accomplish this feat. Next election, he will have reinforcements!

  24. Tommy Caudill says:

    So, what Paul’s saying is that it’s OK to earmark as long as it’s for KY, right? As long as I’m bringing home the bacon people will overlook what I say. I can be against everyone else taking earmarks but I can sneak mine out without anyone noticing.

    This guy has got to be the biggest hypocrite since George W. Bush, he’ll fit right in in Washington with the rest of the corporate hogs.

  25. [...] Read the original post: Rift between McConnell, Paul over earmarks reflects debate within … [...]

  26. Michael NJ says:

    Remember RAND Paul is not RON Paul. He is a weasel and shame on the Kentucky voters for not seeing through this guy. He is on the record saying he favors cutting everything except Medicare … not because he loves seniors ..but because he is a doctor and Medicare accounts for 40% of his practice’s billings. His quote “doctors are entitled to a decent living”. This guy is self serving fraud and has duped the Tea Party twits and now we will all suffer him for 6 years.

    America needs to get real …and remember we were ‘doing fine’ reducing the deficit and paying down our debt until the Bush tax cuts and his multitude misadventures. Obama has done great stuff and needs to do more …but is being defeated by ignorant spin.

    Hope America wakes up.

  27. trublu n ky says:

    Rand wants to be on the budget committee. Wonder if Mitch will go for that?

  28. AngryYoungPaleo says:

    Rand is every bit like his dad, and it is too bad that Conway doesn’t support separation of church and state. It costed him the election.

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