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Senate ban on budget earmarks: Can it really work?

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This hands-across-the-aisle move is only the latest in a series of things indicating that earmarks, or pet projects of lawmakers, may be about to end. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky, a longtime defender of earmark spending, has switched sides, for instance, and now supports a ban. So does President Obama.

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.

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