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Republicans Join McConnell on Earmark Ban

Republicans Join McConnell on Earmark Ban

By Erin McPike - November 16, 2010

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's decision Monday to back a ban on earmarks jolted the GOP, as other influential Republicans quickly followed suit and the Club for Growth praised the Republican leader.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Monday, McConnell said he would join House Republican leadership in switching course to support a ban on earmarks during the next Congress after listening to his constituents and viewing the results of the midterm elections. He proceeded to discuss some success stories that have come from earmarks.

But Club for Growth executive director David Keating commented, "Today Senator McConnell showed that Republicans really do ‘get it.' His support for the earmark moratorium is a great victory for economic reform and fiscal sanity. Sen. McConnell did the right thing by listening to the will of the American people and the principled reformers who led this effort."

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee released a statement supportive of the ban, but with reservations.

"We should not mislead Americans by saying that an earmark ban will do much to reduce the federal debt. Cleaning up earmarks is good short-term policy, but as long-term policy it would undermine the Constitution because instead of placing a check on the president, it turns the checkbook over to him," Alexander said in his statement. "This moratorium will help put the spotlight on executive branch earmarks, which in 2008 spent more than congressional earmarks."

Republicans who are likely to campaign next year for the GOP's presidential nomination in the next election threw their weight behind the effort, too.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's spokesman, Alex Conant, said, "Of course Gov. Pawlenty supports the Republicans' ban on Congressional earmarks. It's important that the Republicans we send to Washington govern as they campaigned, and fight wasteful spending."

And former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney used the media focus on the subject to collect contact info from potential supporters as he gears up for a likely presidential run. He launched an online petition midday on Monday for those supporting the ban; signing up takes supporters to a page that thanks them for signing up for his newsletter and grassroots network, but it doesn't show a list of people who've added their names to a petition.

Romney's statement on the subject was a clear nod to the effort's sponsor, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, whose endorsement he received during the last presidential contest and who he is likely to court for support again.

"Sen. DeMint is courageously standing on conviction with his much-needed proposal to ban earmarks, which will curb wasteful spending and restore accountability to the way Congress spends taxpayer dollars," Romney said.

"We all need to recognize that Washington can't responsibly begin to address out-of-control debt and deficits until the practice of cramming earmarks into spending bills is stopped. While earmarks are not the only cause of our budget problems, they have come to symbolize what's wrong with Washington."

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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