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Tilting at Windmills

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November 30, 2010

SENATE BAN ON EARMARKS FALLS FAR SHORT.... Some conservative Republicans were already able to convince the Senate GOP caucus to support a self-imposed moratorium on earmarks, but the intra-party measure is non-binding and doesn't carry the force of law. This morning, they took the next step, pushing a proposal to ban earmarks altogether.

The Senate considered a similar measure in March, and it failed with only 29 votes. This morning, the proposal, championed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) garnered far more support, but still fell far short, 39 to 56.

The vote did not fall along party lines. Eight Republicans -- Bennett, Cochran, Collins, Inhofe, Murkowski, Shelby, Lugar, and Voinovich -- broke ranks and opposed the measure. A closer look at this list reveals that two of the eight are retiring from the chamber, while the other six are members of the Appropriations Committee, which just happens to be responsible for handing out earmarks. Meanwhile, seven Democrats -- Bayh, Feingold, McCaskill, Bennet, Bill Nelson, Udall, and Warner -- voted for Coburn's measure.

But for the real entertainment, take a look at who voted against the earmark ban in March, only to turn around and vote for it this morning. Dave Weigel flags the highest profile example.

In March, an earmark moratorium went down 68-29, and [Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe] voted against it. Today the moratorium failed by a 56-39 vote, and Snowe was among the Republicans who switched her vote to [support a moratorium].

What changed? Bob Bennett, Mike Castle, and Lisa Murkowski lost Republican primaries. Tea Partiers have made it crystal clear that they're going to challenge Snowe in 2012, with a resurgent Republican electorate in that state clearly ready for the fight. This, again, is the real impact of the Tea Party movement. Whether it costs Republicans a seat or two is almost irrelevant. Its ability to force discipline and demand ideological concessions from Republicans is uncanny.

The same, by the way, can be said of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) of Texas, who also switched positions, and who appears likely to face a primary challenger in 2012.

Tea Party zealots may be lacking in a lot of areas -- no clear agenda, no leadership, no internal structure, and no real areas of expertise -- but they've successfully scared the hell out of plenty of GOP lawmakers.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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Hold on-- Snowe "voted against" an earmark moratorium in March, and today she "switched her vote to oppose it"? What am I missing?

Posted by: Decatur Dem on November 30, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

"Tea Party zealots may be lacking in a lot of areas -- no clear agenda, no leadership, no internal structure, and no real areas of expertise -- but they've successfully scared the hell out of plenty of GOP lawmakers."

Now if only we on the left could figure out how to do that with Dem lawmakers. It would be nice to scare them into taking the positions that you'd think Dems would automatically take, like being for creating jobs, and against tax cuts for the rich.

Primaries. We really need to primary a bunch of these jackasses.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 30, 2010 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Yet again we turn to the Bard for comment: "Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" (the 'tale told by an idiot" is a given).

Earmarks are 1% of the Federal budget, and if Congress refuses to dole them out, the task falls to the Administration- Oh, the horror!

But it amuses the children at the Tea Party, and allows the adults to continue their conversation without interruption. . .

Posted by: DAY on November 30, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

there's not a single republican senator who isn't, in some fashion, a thug, and they recognize a mob of thugs in the tea party.

and, rightly, are scared: it's one thing to be a senatorial thug, but to have the real thugs monitoring your every action is scary....

Posted by: howard on November 30, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

See, I told you so...

That sell-out RINO Lugar is opposed to earmark bans! He is just another socialist like Obama. All the more reason why we Tea Party Patriots will seek to oust him in two years.

It is the Death Penalty for all RINOs who oppose us!

- A True American Tea Party Patriot

Posted by: ToldYouSo on November 30, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

While earmarks may be a statistically insignificant portion of the budget, there is a level of significance to what banning them means.

As a progressive, I see this as being of the same level of symbolism as Obama's proposed freezing of federal employees pay.

As a progressive who has actually been a long time deficit hawk, I think that both have a value beyond what they actually would reduce federal spending. As such, I support both measures.

As a progressive who has actually been a long time deficit hawk, I also believe that NONE of the expiring Bush/Cheney/Rove tax cuts should be renewed.

As a progressive who has actually been a long time deficit hawk, I would propose the following as the first steps toward reducing our deficits and deficit spending:
- Let all Bush tax cuts expire
- End the wars in Iraq and Afganistan AND DO NOT START MORE WARS
- End ALL crop subsidies and especially ethanol subsidies
- End ALL subsidies of the energy industry
- Eliminate all new military weapons systems until reviewed as meeting actual military needs and not just existing as jobs programs in congressional districts

As a progressive who has actually been a long time deficit hawk, I say to all of the 'new deficit hawks (when there is a democrat as president)' who want to reduce the deficit on the backs of workers, go f*ck yourselves!

Posted by: SadOldVet on November 30, 2010 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the crucial point - the action needs to be in the primaries. The source of the Tea Party's power is NOT in a self-defeating threat to stay home during the general election and let a candidate even less likely to support their positions to win - it's in making their own pay a price for straying from whatever they define as the Party orthodoxy by nominating someone better. Then, unless the primary winner is actually worse than the opponent, you need to show up in the general to vote for them in order to keep the house/senate/legislature as friendly as possible until the next teachable moment - at primary time.

Posted by: drkrick on November 30, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

"Now if only we on the left could figure out how to do that with Dem lawmakers."
Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 30, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Piece o' cake.
All we need are...
a wholly-owned-and-operated cable-news channel;
majority control of all the broadcast networks;
major media mouthpieces on every editorial and op-ed page;
a few dozen talk radio hosts;
a regular "Wednesday group" meeting in DC of the heads of all the various interest groups that make up the lefty coalition to co-ordinate strategies and messaging;
a few clever pollsters;
some seasoned and proven marketing professionals;
at least a few current or former Dem officeholders who know what's what and who's who, and who have the brains, spines, guts, and heart to do what it takes to impose some degree of discipline;
a dozen or two major financiers willing to invest tens of millions of dollars in the organization and direction of "grass-roots" groups of concerned citizens;
and the same w/r/t direct donations to the pol's and PACs involved.
Oh, and a couple of Supreme Court Justices and a few more circuit court judges who aren't fully invested in the ideas that corporations are citizens and money is speech might help.
I suppose we might be able to make do with a bit less than all of that, since we do, after all, have the actual facts, and the actual interests of 90+% of Americans, on our side...
But it's still necessary to ask, "How many divisions does the truth have?"

Posted by: smartalek on November 30, 2010 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

The incoming Republican Governor of Maine is turning to hard-core Tea Party folks to serve as his advisers. For an update, see http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/11/29/924110/-Incoming-Governor-advised-by-Tea-Party-crackpots

Posted by: Mainer on November 30, 2010 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Tea Party zealots may be lacking in a lot of areas -- no clear agenda, no leadership, no internal structure, and no real areas of expertise -- but they've successfully scared the hell out of plenty of GOP lawmakers.

What a pity that tea partiers -- who, being a rebranding of the hardcore Republican Party, will never vote Democrat -- seem to have scared plenty of Democrats as well. Why are Democrats more scared of the Republican base than their own?

Posted by: Gregory on November 30, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what's going on with Olympia Snowe. She must realize that she's a dead woman walking if she stays a Republican, right? So she either has to become independent, in which case she could continue to caucus with the Republicans but would almost certainly face a three-way re-election contest, or she can become a Democrat. (Or she could retire.) Flip-flopping on this rather silly earmark ban doesn't help in any scenario.

Posted by: dbeach on November 30, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Snowe is easier to spell than Murkowski

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on November 30, 2010 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

I pretty much agree with SadOldVet, except that I see the advantages of deficit spending during a recession.

"but they've successfully scared the hell out of plenty of GOP lawmakers"

The long-term consequence of this is ending up with either true believers or the intimidated, neither of whom will compromise, as members of the legislative body that is based on the idea of compromise. The result will be an inability of the government to deal with crucial issues.

It's a good thing we're an exceptional country specifically chosen by God to lead the world. Otherwise, I'd say we were on a trajectory to second-class status.

Posted by: Seould on November 30, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Color me stunned. Not.

Posted by: ET on November 30, 2010 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Tea Party zealots may be lacking in a lot of areas -- no clear agenda, no leadership, no internal structure, and no real areas of expertise..."
But there's certainly no lack of Teh Stupid.

Posted by: hawiken on December 1, 2010 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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