The lame duck session of Congress wends on and on! Today, the bitter battle is enjoined over the omnibus budget bill, and the chief complainant is Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). See, Cornyn is very upset about all of the earmarks that are in the bill. And it's easy to see why! A few weeks ago, he was one of 39 senators who voted to ban the practice entirely, in an effort that was ultimately unsuccessful.
Of course, as I've already documented, many of the people who have long complained about earmarks, who have targeted the practice as a key means of reining in spending, and who made the banning of the earmark practice a central promise of their 2010 campaigns, have been having second thoughts lately. Maybe some earmarks are good. Maybe all we need is a new name for the earmarks. Maybe we could just earmark when we're out at bars. I can stop whenever I want!
Well, surely "Big, bad John" is standing on firm ground, unshakable in his conviction that the practice needs to end. Here's Cornyn on Fox News, with Bill Hemmer, Wednesday morning:
HEMMER: My next guest says Washington still does not get it, Senator John Cornyn is on the senate budget committee, he's live on the hill. Good morning to you. We were told yesterday this is a total mess and that, quote, all hell is breaking loose. Is that true?
CORNYN: Well, yes. I think people are just so profoundly shocked that here we are, a year after we jammed through Harry Reid and the democratic majority, jammed through a $2.7 trillion health care bill and we know what's come of that, that they're dropping this 2000 page, $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill that no one has had a chance to see until yesterday, and the more we see it the less there is to like about it, and it's just -- to me it is completely tone-deaf as John McCain said, after coming off this election when the American people said very clearly that this runaway Washington spending and this unsustainable debt were unacceptable and they're sending new people in come January 5th to represent them better than the people who are leaving. So it's really shocking, and it's disrespectful.
Off to a good start, I'd say! But there's a twist!
HEMMER: Senator Dan Inouye out of Hawaii, a Democrat, on the appropriations committee, I believe, he has a lot of say in the handling of the money here, he says tens of thousands of questions have been asked, they've put a year's worth of work into this. He's also requested $159 million in defense spending earmarks, according to a release from the pentagon. Now, you yourself have asked for earmarks, too, according to this list, some 16 million for your home state. Can you defend that, senator?
CORNYN: Well, I believe I can. But I'm not going to, because I'm going to vote against this bill. This is just -- the Republican conference, all Republican senators, voted for a two-year earmark moratorium so we can fix this broken system, as we try to come to an agreement on how to control the debt, and to embrace some of the recommendations of the fiscal commission. So I am for voting this bill down, even though it could arguably help some of my constituents.
But my earmarks are the good kind! And I could totally defend them if I had to. But I'm not going to, not after months and months of going on and on and on about how the earmark practice needs to be ended.
HEMMER: But you say -- but you favor earmarks is what you're saying.
CORNYN: I do not. I think we need an earmark moratorium which I voted for two years, until we fix this broken system, because it's become a symbol.
I sort of think that the constant pledge to ban earmarks is the thing that's become a symbol of the broken system. I wouldn't be at surprised if Bill Hemmer was just confused by this whole conversation.
HEMMER: But I'm confused, then, why there 16 million in requests listed from you here? Is that not true?
CORNYN: Early on in the year, I did request earmarks that I think are individually defensible, and if we had a debate on the floor I think I could show how they help our men and women in uniform fight.
But everyone is just going to think that their personal requests are individually defensible, just not on teevee, where someone might see.
At any rate, it's been two long years of the GOP obstructing bills and complaining about spending, and then watching the same obstructionists and complainers turning around to take credit for the money that got spent. Matt Yglesias has a solution:
Dems should start stripping earmarks requested by GOP Senators who are whining about the omnibus. No vote, no pork.