15 GOP Senators Vow to Oppose Ending Earmark Ban (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
By Brian Freeman | Monday, 19 April 2021 06:19 PM
Fifteen Senate Republicans have signed a letter vowing to oppose lifting the earmark ban that has been a Senate GOP conference rule since 2010, The Hill reported on Monday.
Republican senators are expected to vote by secret ballot on the issue this Wednesday.
Senate Republicans will take up the topic after the House Republican Conference voted last month to do away with the earmark ban, which effectively put a halt to congressmen placing pet projects into spending bills.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee and 14 of his colleagues on Monday informed their fellow Republicans they “stand committed to the ban on earmarks,” writing in the letter that “We will not participate in an inherently wasteful spending practice that is prone to serious abuse.”
High profile signatories to the letter include Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the former Senate majority whip and a candidate to succeed one day Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as potential presidential candidates in 2024 – Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
The other signatories were Nebraska Sen.Ben Sasse, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, Montana Sen. Steve Daines, Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Rick Scott and Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis.
Daines told Fox News the fact that the vote on the issue is set to be secret is particularly problematic.
"Nothing screams D.C. swamp more than a secret vote to overturn a ban on earmarks that would unleash wasteful spending and make lobbyists rich on the taxpayers’ dime," the Montana senator said. "If we’re voting on this pay-for-play tactic, it should be public."
The internal Republican debate comes as Democrats intend to bring back earmarks now that they control Congress, according to Politico.
GOP congressmen have argued among themselves whether it is a good idea to revive the practice, although House Republicans approved by a 102-84 vote in a secret ballot last month to restore earmarks as long as certain criteria are met.
Republicans opposed to the idea of bringing back earmarks argue that it is ripe for abuse and would only lead to “pork-barrel” spending, which is the major reason the ban was enacted and is one of the last vestiges of the Tea Party era.
Those against the idea also say it would be politically unwise to give Democratic leaders such a useful way to convince some Republicans to vote their way on major bills, especially considering the narrow majorities held by the Democrats in both houses of Congress..
However, others in the GOP insist that Republicans would be at a big disadvantage if they decided not to earmark while Democrats received the rewards of restoring the spending practice.
In addition, GOP proponents of doing away with the ban say that permitting lawmakers to ensure money for specific projects would help restore power to the legislative branch and thus shift it away from the Biden administration.
Those wanting to lift the ban also emphasize that doing so would only open up the option for Republican congressmen, not make them do so if they do not want to participate.