One of the first decisions Republicans will make next week is whether or not to ban earmarks. The Miami Herald reports that Senator-elect Marco Rubio is playing a leading role in South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint’s campaign to get Republicans to take a principled stand against earmarks. Rubio, DeMint and other Republican senators are challenging Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who supports earmarks.
Earmarks are awards of taxpayer money to specific recipients for specific projects and are a favorite way of politicians to reward supporters in their districts. They tend to be inserted into massive bills at the last momentum to gain additional votes for the larger bill.
Supporters of earmarks argue that they do not make up a large amount of spending. Yes, $20 billion a year does not seem a lot of money in a 4 trillion dollar budget, although that in itself is a sad commentary on runaway government spending.
But earmarks are what Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has called “the gateway drug” to much larger spending. When a senator or representative votes for a $100 billion bill just because he wants a $1 million earmark that he was able to insert into the legislation, the true effect of earmarks extends far beyond the cost of the earmark.
Watch Neil Cavuto and Senator-elect Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania explain the pernicious effect of earmarks:
This will be one of the first tests of whether newly elected senators like Rubio, Toomey and Rand Paul from Kentucky together with current senators like Demint and Coburn can set the Republican Party on a new course.