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Senate ban on budget earmarks: Can it really work?

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But would a ban on earmarks really work? After all, the pressure on lawmakers to direct federal money to their states can be tremendous.

In the short run an earmark ban, if it passes the House and Senate, would certainly cut back on the practice. The press would give extra scrutiny to appropriations bills to see what they contained – as would lawmakers’ own colleagues, since they would not want someone else to cheat and sneak something through.

But remember, a ban isn’t yet a sure thing – Democrats maintain a bare majority in the Senate, and majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada remains a proponent of the practice.

“I have an obligation to the people of Nevada to do what is important for Nevada,” Senator Reid said Tuesday.

Even some lawmakers who support the ban are kind of hedging. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) of Tennessee issued a statement Tuesday in which he backed the vow of the Republican caucus to enforce an earmarks moratorium on its members. But he added that “I reserve the right to ask Congress and the president to approve measures of urgent importance to Tennesseans.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina went even further, saying in a statement that “I respect the spirit in which this moratorium has been agreed to and hope it will lead to a better use of taxpayer dollars. However, I maintain the right to seek funding to protect our national security of where the jobs and economy of South Carolina are at risk.”

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