One of the lessons learned in the 2010 elections was that voters distrust Washington politicians. Americans think congressmen and senators are in it for the perks and the power, but not the people, and that is why the proposed ban on earmarks is such an important move for the newly empowered GOP. Voters want their legislators to represent them and act in the best interests of the country. What they don't want are politicians spending taxpayer money on ridiculous projects like research money to create the best pickled vegetables.
The GOP caucus in the House of Representatives has come together to propose a ban on congressional earmakrks -- those pork barrel projects that get written in by an individual legislator and which do not face specific up or down votes. This wasteful spending accounts for only a fraction of the annual federal budget, but the symbolism of this waste goes a long way. At first, Senate GOP leaders balked at the idea, but the writing is on the wall. If the GOP does not change the current course, if they act as a "business as usual" group of politicians, they will be out of power as fast as the Democrats.
As reported by FoxNews.com, on Monday, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell signed on to a two-year moratorium on earmarks. This action meant that the earmark ban proposal has GOP House and Senate support.
The move by the Senate GOP leaves Senate Democrats as the only faction of Congress in a position to try to save the practice -- and their position doesn't seem very strong, since it's difficult to see how Boehner and McConnell would allow any earmark-laden bills to pass.
Thus far, however, some Senate Democrats seem to be in denial.
"I have an obligation to the people of Nevada to do what is important to Nevada, not what is important to some bureaucrat down here (in Washington) with green eyeshades," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. "So I am not going, personally, going to back off of bringing stuff back to Nevada."
That is the typical response that Americans showed they DON'T want. Going to Washington is NOT about "bringing home the bacon." It's about keeping the bacon at home to begin with!
ABCNews.com reports that most Democrats remained opposed to the idea of banning earmarks. If fact, only Democrat Sens. Claire McCaskill and Mark Udall have gone on record in support. McCaskill is teaming up with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn to force a vote in the Senate to determine where each and every senator stands on the measure.
"I don't think we'd be successful," McCaskill said. "There hasn't been a huge appetite yet on our side of the aisle to stop this process."
"They feel very strongly about having the prerogative of making funding decisions on an individual basis," McCaskill said of her Democratic colleagues. "It's a lot of power. And I think people are reluctant to give up the power to make a solitary, stand-alone decision on where federal money is going to be spent."
And what comes with that power? Answer... the ability to do some really stupid stuff. Here's some examples of past earmarks:
* $2 million for children's wooden arrow makers
* $1.9 million for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service
* 3. $1 million for the New York Woodstock Museum
* 4. $192 million for the U.S. Territories' rum industries
* 5. $188,000 for the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine
And, of course, there is Nancy Pelosi's "non-earmark" earmark:
Credit should be given to Republican House Leader John Boehner for his stand on this issue. He knows what the November elections meant, and he knows this is the first step in restoring public trust in Washington.
Boehner: "House and Senate Republican leaders are listening to the American people, and are united in support of an earmark ban. An earmark moratorium shows that elected officials are serious about restoring trust between the American people and those who are elected to represent them. This is a strong first step - though only a first step - towards making the tough choices required to get our country back on track. We hope President Obama and Washington Democrats will show they are serious, and join us in this effort to restore the public trust.
Tougher choices will need to be made in order to really balance the budget, shrink government, and reduce the debt. But we must walk before we can run. The problem in the past was that no one was willing to walk.