Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is maneuvering behind the scenes to defeat a conservative plan aimed at restricting earmarks, setting up a high-stakes showdown that pits the GOP leader and his “Old Bull” allies against Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and a new breed of conservative senators.
In a series of one-on-one conversations with incoming and sitting senators, McConnell is encouraging his colleagues to keep an open mind and not to automatically side with DeMint, whose plan calls on Senate Republicans to unilaterally give up earmarks in the 112th Congress, according to several people familiar with the talks.
Have no fear, Mitch- Rand Paul is certainly keeping an open mind:
One Tea Party hero, Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-KY), jumped on the anti-earmark bandwagon early, making “a ban on wasteful earmark spending in Washington D.C. one of the key points of his campaign” in March. Lambasting lawmakers who opt for “photo-ops with oversized fake cardboard checks,” Paul vowed to “dismantle the culture of professional politicians” even if he “ruffled a lot of establishment feathers” while doing it.
But after joining the GOP flock on Election Day, Paul is singing a different tune. In a Wall Street Journal profile this weekend, Paul signaled an about-face on his earmark position, committing to “fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork.” After all, he’s “not that crazy” of a libertarian:
Father and son, age 47, have different styles. Asked what he wanted to do in Washington in a Wednesday morning television interview, the senator-elect said that his kids were hoping to meet the Obama girls. He has made other concessions to the mainstream. He now avoids his dad’s talk of shuttering the Federal Reserve and abolishing the income tax. In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me that they are a bad “symbol” of easy spending but that he will fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork, as long as it’s doled out transparently at the committee level and not parachuted in in the dead of night. “I will advocate for Kentucky’s interests,” he says.
So you’re not a crazy libertarian? “Not that crazy,” he cracks.
Two things about this are awesome. The first is that these guys have so little respect for the tea party that they can’t even wait a week to rub the rube’s noses in it. I mean, it is just great. Every idiot who spent the last year pretending the tea party and the lunatics they had nominated were anything other than the lunatic fringe of the GOP should just be summarily ignored. It’s really one of the greatest cons/re-branding efforts of all times.
Second, I love that the GOP is still so un-serious that earmarks are the hill to die on when it comes to fiscal responsibility. Earmarks are a nothing-burger when it comes to the budget- less than 1% of the federal budget. That’s still big money, but it is nothing when your party ran on a platform of cutting taxes for the rich and re-instating Medicare Advantage and fainting at the notion of defense cuts. Making a big stink about earmarks while supporting all the other irresponsible things the GOP wants to do is akin to ordering four double whoppers for lunch, and then removing the pickles on each, “cuz you’re on a diet!” Even sillier, earmarks sometimes do some really good things- here is a partial list of earmarks from Patty Murray:
• $2 million for the Vancouver waterfront redevelopment project. The money will be used to help extend Grant and Esther streets under the BNSF Railway berm, connecting downtown to the former Boise Cascade site along the waterfront. Construction of the $40 million road project has been delayed by an impasse between the city and The Columbian over land acquisition.
• $1.5 million for C-Tran to continue an analysis of its proposal to build a bus rapid transit line carrying riders along dedicated lanes along Fourth Plain Boulevard between the Vancouver mall area and downtown Vancouver. The money comes on top of $2 million in federal funding previously received by C-Tran, said spokesman Scott Patterson. “This money will allow us to finish out the alternatives analysis,” he said. C-Tran estimates total construction cost of the line at $72 million. Although Patterson said planners anticipate the Federal Transit Administration will pick up 80 percent of the cost, the local share will require voters to approve a sales tax increase.
• $1 million to complete funding for the $6 million second phase of a reconstructed interchange between Ridgefield and Interstate 5. Ridgefield City Manager Justin Clary said the project will realign 65th Avenue and add roundabout intersections on Pioneer Street east and west of the freeway. “This should fully fund the project,” Clary said.
• $1 million for the city of Battle Ground to support the first phase of the reconstruction of Southeast Grace Avenue.
• $900,000 to support renovation of the Share Community Service Center in Vancouver. The renovation is intended to enable the nonprofit organization to increase service to the homeless, hungry and low-income populations.
Those are good things!