Today Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell welcomed Marco Rubio and twelve new Republican senators to Washington and made an important decision: he decided to agree on a ban on earmarks, the corrupt practice of inserting a senator’s pet project into a big bill to buy his vote. Earmarks have been opposed by Marco Rubio and other new and current Republicans.
McConnell still justifies his past support for earmarks and contrasts them to the abuses of earmarks by others. Maybe he achieved some good in his earmarks and it is understandable that he wants to save face when agreeing to a position that he wouldn’t have agreed to without the leadership of Senator-elect Marco Rubio, Senator Jim DeMint and others.
McConnell still doesn’t seem to understand the argument that while earmarks are only a “small” part of our spending problem – about $20 billion annually! – they are the gateway drug to bigger spending. They cause senators and representatives to vote for bills they only agree to because they are allowed to insert their earmarks at the last moment without public scrutiny.
For more on the earmark issue read Marco Rubio in Leading Role to Ban Earmarks, the Gateway Drug to Spending.
Before the election, some establishment Republicans like former senator Trent Lott thought they could tame the newly elected Republicans once they got to Washington. This has worked in the past, but with thirteen new Republican senators and at least eighty new Republicans in the House, Tea Party Republicans have a real chance of changing the establishment rather than the establishment changing them.
The next big challenge to the establishment: deciding on who will chair powerful committees in the House and Senate. There are some problematic candidates in the House that we’ll cover soon. This will be future House Speaker John Boehner’s chance to show that he is on board with listening to the American voters.
Watch McConnell welcome the thirteen new Republican senators to Washington. Note how the camera swings to Rubio right at the beginning.