When It Comes To Earmarks, Republicans Say One Thing In Washington And Something Else At Home

Senate Republicans are falling all over themselves to denounce earmarks in a pending omnibus federal spending bill — even after loading the legislation with their own earmarks — but GOP earmark hypocrisy is even starker when you compare what they are saying in Washington, to what they are saying to their constituents back home, according to a media analysis assembled by Senate Democrats.

The issue of lawmakers denouncing the practice of earmarks — steering federal funds to specific projects back home — on the one hand, but having already loaded a $1.2 trillion spending measure with their own earmarks, has become a blossoming issue in the capital. It’s reached the point where at least some senators intend to vote against their own earmarks.

Democrats cite an article which appeared last month in the Washington newspaper The Hill, in which tea-party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint says, “Americans want Congress to shut down the earmark favor factory, and next week I believe House and Senate Republicans will unite to stop pork barrel spending…Instead of spending time chasing money for pet projects, lawmakers will be able to focus on balancing the budget, reforming the tax code and repealing the costly health care takeover.”

Yet, back home in South Carolina, DeMint is quoted in a local story on the Herald Online website as saying, fellow senators are “playing politics” in blocking a colleague’s efforts to secure a $400,000 earmark to study deepening Charleston Harbor.

In another instance, Sen. John Cornyn attacked the earmarks practice in a blog post on the popular conservative website, Red State titled, “Everyone Loses in the Earmark Game.”

Yet in a story from the Dallas Morning News, Cornyn downplayed the significance of his earmark opposition, and appeared to indicate his call for an earmark ban would be only temporary.

The story says, “’basically is a timeout while we reassess this whole earmarking process, which has been in some instances abused,’ said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the GOP leadership… Cornyn, like some other moratorium supporters, said the policy should not and won’t last indefinitely but agreed that for now, ‘it will have an impact on Texas, just as it will have an impact on the rest of the country.’”

Cornyn, who already this week was confronted on Fox News over his apparent earmark double-speak, has requested additional earmarks for the 2011 federal fiscal year, according to the senator’s own website.

Lastly, Democrats cite the words of conservative Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) from a press conference just Wednesday in which he criticized the omnibus bill to fund federal operations by saying, “The bill is loaded up with pork projects, and it shouldn’t get a vote. The bill was crafted behind closed doors, and it hasn’t gone through the proper oversight or the proper channels.”

But last month, Thune — a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate — defended his intended earmarks in a story in the Argus Leader in South Dakota.

“He has backed similar moratoriums in the past but the proposed 2011 spending bills Congress will consider in the coming weeks include almost 30 Thune-requested projects, such as money for highway projects, water systems and safety programs on Indian reservations…,” the article says. “‘We applaud responsible efforts to rein in earmark spending, but if that effort wrongly includes authorized projects like Lewis & Clark, it’s counterproductive.’ Thune agrees. ‘There are ways that you can do this that really legitimize Congress spending money, and one is authorized projects that went through the normal process and passed the House and the Senate,’ he said last week. ‘To me, that’s a very different thing than an earmark that gets dropped into an appropriations bill in a conference committee that hasn’t passed the House and the Senate.’”

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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