After yesterday’s Senate vote against an earmark ban, we again made the case that the damage earmarks do to our nation’s deficits go far beyond the nominal amounts spent on the earmarks themselves. The problem is that the votes earmarks secure from the sponsoring legislators then allow for ever higher levels of spending on other federal programs. Now, just one day after eight Republican Senators voted to protect earmark spending, CQ confirms our fears:
New Hope for a Spending Package. The 15-day stopgap bill, or CR, buys Democrats the maximum time they can take to decide how to wrap up the appropriations process before they lose unfettered control. And yesterday’s Senate test vote on earmarks suggests the party still has some hope of teaming up with enough Republicans to enact a comprehensive bill — and not just a simple CR through next September. That’s what the GOP leadership wants, because that would put them in an easier position to roll back discretionary domestic spending totals, maybe even to 2008 levels, after they take over the House and gain strength in the Senate next year.
The hope for an omnibus spending package surged when only 39 senators backed a three-year prohibition against pet projects while a solid 56 voted against the idea, signaling they would be the senators most eager to see their earmarks survive this fall. And eight of them were Republicans: Jim Inhofe and Dick Lugar along with appropriators Bob Bennett, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Dick Shelby and George Voinovich. (And another pair of venerable earmarking appropriators, Democrat Barbara Mikulski and Republican Kit Bond, were among those missing.)
In other words, before yesterday’s vote in favor of earmarks conservatives had a good chance of passing a continuing resolution that would have frozen spending through next September at 2010 levels. And then the next Congress would have had a real opportunity to roll back all spending to 2008 levels next year. But now, thanks to those earmarking appropriators, liberals in Congress now have a better chance at passing an Omnibus spending bill in this lame duck that will increase spending this year and next.
Funding the federal government at 2008 discretionary spending levels instead of 2010 spending levels would save $100 billion in one year. So that is $100 billion in new debt those eight earmarking Republicans just gave to your children. Merry Christmas.