Tea Party Senators Get Their First Victory

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Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Congress had been back in session for only a few hours today when the new class of tea party senators — who aren't seated yet, but are in town for orientation — achieved their first victory over the establishment GOP leadership: a likely self-imposed earmark ban. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Minority Leader, had opposed the ban, since providing his state with pork ($113 million from 58 separate earmarks last year) made him a popular senator. But while earmarks don't really account for very much of the federal budget — a whopping one fifth of one percent — they've become a symbol of the Out of Control Government that the tea party ran against this year, and South Carolina's Jim DeMint, the de facto tea party leader in the Senate, seemed to have the votes lined up. So earlier this afternoon on the Senate floor, McConnell jumped onboard, even while admitting the ban was largely a "symbolic thing."


Make no mistake. I know the good that has come from the projects I have helped support throughout my state. I don’t apologize for them,” McConnell said. “But there is simply no doubt that the abuse of this practice has caused Americans to view it as a symbol of the waste and the out-of-control spending that every Republican in Washington is determined to fight. And unless people like me show the American people that we’re willing to follow through on small or even symbolic things, we risk losing them on our broader efforts to cut spending and rein in government."

Of course, the Democrats are still in the majority in the Senate, and have made no such commitments — although, vaguely, President Obama expressed support for "addressing" earmarks over the weekend — so earmarks may not exactly be on their deathbed yet. But at the least, the Republicans will be able to live with themselves. And, it appears for now, with each other.

Mitch McConnell reverses; backs earmark ban [Politico]