The top Republican in the Senate has reversed course and endorsed a moratorium on pork-barrel projects known as "earmarks." Those are special funding requests lawmakers slip into legislation for home-state projects.
Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell says he's heeding the message voters sent in elections that swept Democrats from power in the House. He says he can't accuse Democrats of failing to ignore the wishes of the American people and then be guilty of the same thing.
McConnell's move gives tea party activists a win and heads off a battle with conservatives in his own party in the Senate. House GOP leaders had already endorsed a ban on the practice.
McConnell, a member of the Appropriations Committee, is a longtime defender of earmarking. The Kentucky Republican has requested 158 solo earmarks amounting to a cost of $927,872,000 over the past two years, according to data provided by LegiStorm. During a recent appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," McConnell expressed doubt over the ability of an earmark ban to advance spending reduction initiatives.
"The problem is, it doesn't save any money," explained the explained the Senate leader. "What we really need to do is to concentrate on reducing spending and reducing debt. And this debate doesn't save any money, which is why it is kind of exasperating to some of us who really want to cut spending."
President Obama released a statement on Monday praising McConnell's support:
I welcome Senator McConnell's decision to join me and members of both parties who support cracking down on wasteful earmark spending, which we can't afford during these tough economic times. As a Senator, I helped eliminate anonymous earmarks, and as President, I've called for new limitations on earmarks and set new, higher standards of transparency and accountability. But we can't stop with earmarks as they represent only part of the problem. In the days and weeks to come, I look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to not only end earmark spending, but to find other ways to bring down our deficits for our children.