Economics

Pork-Laden Bill a Major Test for the GOP This Week

paperToday’s Washington Post has new poll numbers showing that “Republicans may have made major gains in the November elections, but they have yet to win the hearts and minds of the American people.” This should come as no surprise. An Associated Press poll in September found that while 60 percent of the country disapprove of the job Democrats are doing on Capitol Hill, 68 percent disapprove of the job Republicans are doing. Clearly the November election was not an endorsement of the GOP—it was a vote of no-confidence in the direction that President Obama and the Democrats were taking the country.

Voters have not forgotten why they fired the GOP in 2006. The party lost its way on fiscal responsibility, and Americans are still not sure Republicans really mean it when they say they have kicked their free-spending ways. The Post poll found that “when it comes to dealing with the federal budget deficit, Republicans in Congress are up eight points. But while Republicans are more trusted on the issue, Americans believe that the president is more genuine in wanting to reduce the deficit. More than two in three say Obama is sincere in his commitment to deficit reduction, while only a bare majority say the same for congressional Republicans.” While Republicans campaigned on a message of fiscal restraint, the voters still doubt their sincerity on the issue—which means any sign of faltering could be disastrous for efforts to rebuild the party’s reputation as the champions of limited government.

Republicans took a big step toward regaining their credibility on spending by pledging to unilaterally ban earmarks in the new Congress. But they are poised to take a major step backward this week if they go along with the pork-laden omnibus spending bill now being considered in the senate.

In a story entitled “Senators load spending bill with earmarks,”  the Post reports today:

Weeks after swearing off earmarks, many senators stand to gain tens of millions of dollars for pet projects in a massive spending bill that could be their last chance at the money before a more conservative Congress begins next month. The $1.2 trillion bill, released on Tuesday, includes more than 6,000 earmarks totaling $8 billion, an amount that many lawmakers decried as an irresponsible binge following a midterm election in which many voters demanded that the government cut spending.

“The American people said just 42 days ago, ‘Enough!’ . . . Are we tone deaf? Are we stricken with amnesia?” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading earmark critic, said on the Senate floor, flipping through the 1,924-page bill as he pounded his desk.

Among the earmarks included in the omnibus bill is $650,000 for a genetic technology center at the University of Kentucky that was requested by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell before Senate Republicans had voted to adopt an earmark moratorium. McConnell says he is “vigorously in opposition” to the omnibus bill. And no doubt he is. He took a courageous step in leading his party to ban earmarks after the November elections. Now he should show that Republicans mean it by leading his party in killing the omnibus bill.

There is no need to pass an omnibus bill. The Post reports that “The House took a different approach this month in passing an alternative spending bill, known as a ‘continuing resolution,’ that would keep funding mostly level through September and contains no earmarks.” If they want to prove their sincerity and regain the trust of the American people, Senate Republicans should insist on passing a continuing resolution as well—and use every means at their disposal to stop the fiscal monstrosity known as the omnibus spending bill from becoming law.

Image by Sara Grajeda.

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