From the perspective of many conservatives, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is doing himself and Republicans a lot of harm by fighting Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) proposal to ban requests for earmarks among Republicans in next year’s Senate. The first reason, writes RedState’s Erick Erickson, has to do with last year’s battle over health care reform:
Earmarks erode the ability to say no to more government, and they corrupt often-good politicians with the enjoyment and the power of directing other people’s money to those who come to them and ask. And at times, earmarks directly enable increased government when they are used to buy lawmakers off. It is standard procedure for powerful Chairmen to demand that anyone with earmarks in a bill vote for the overall bill lest the projects get struck. Look no further than the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase.
Probably no aspect of the process that led to the passage of health care reform drew more ire on the right than those two deal-making provisions. McConnell’s current intransigence on earmarks risks making the GOP’s stand against such deals look like the posturing many on the left and right believed it was at the time.
Conservatives are also concerned that McConnell’s main argument in favor of the practice — that Congress should decide where to send federal dollars over the Obama administration — underscores the minority leader’s lack of conservative bonafides. If McConnell is serious about limiting the size of the federal government, the logic among conservatives goes, why is he so worried about pulling in federal dollars to his district?
Earmarks might be a miniscule portion of the federal budget, but they’re quickly finding their place as a wedge between pragmatists and purists in the Republican Party as it prepares for its party conference next week.