Last Thursday, House Republicans declared a one-year moratorium on the practice of stuffing bills full of earmarks, or special projects lawmakers request for their home states or districts. A day earlier, House Democrats swore off earmarks for private companies. Both sides want voters in November's midterm elections to see them as the enemies of "pork barrel" spending. Does either party really mean it? (Watch a CBS report about the move to ban earmarks)
Republicans are attacking spending problems head on: The GOP moratorium will do more good than the "half-measures" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Democrats are offering, says Mary Katherine Ham in The Weekly Standard. Earmarks "are a clear symbol of something that's wrong with Washington," and Republicans will really impress voters "if they have the will to stick" to it.
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The GOP's "anti-earmark crusade" is phony: It's odd the GOP claims it's "the party that hates earmarks more," says Steve Benen in Washington Monthly. Earmarks quadrupled between 1994 and 2005, under Republican rule in Congresss. And 10 GOP leaders now calling pork spending a "symbol of a broken Washington" have requested more than $240 million in earmarks since 2008. "Oops."
This could the start of an "earmark war": Not to be outdone, Nancy Pelosi is already considering "upping the Democratic ante," says Jillian Bandes in Townhall.com, and matching the GOP with a full-fledged moratorium on earmark requests. Who knows where this will end? "It's rare, but sometimes petty politics can mean progress."
Don't get your hopes up: Sorry, but this week's tit-for-tat battle isn't "likely to end or even alter the earmarking process in a major way," say the editors of CQPolitics. No matter what happens in the House, the lawmakers who hold the purse strings in the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, are happy with things just the way they are.
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