Senators Urge Congress Not To Bring Back Earmarks

05/01/2014 10:13 am ET | Updated May 01, 2014
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post
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WASHINGTON -- At least two senators are joining forces to squash a growing movement to bring earmarks back to the lawmaking process.

In a letter to House and Senate leadership, Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) urged for a continuation of the "earmark moratorium" that has now been in place for several years.

"The American people celebrated this bipartisan leadership. But, recently, we have noted that members on both sides of the aisle are calling for a return to earmarking. We believe this would be unwise and would further damage Congress’ reputation and ability to tackle the nation’s challenges," the letter reads. "We recognize there are a wide range of views on this subject in our caucuses but we believe it is important to reaffirm our support for this policy."

The letter, which Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) will also sign, according to an official in Coburn's office, appears to be a direct response to a recent push by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) -- the second-ranked Democrat in the chamber -- to re-establish earmarks as a congressional spending tool.

The Illinois Democrat made the case for these types of pet projects during various appearances over the Easter recess.

"I think that what we need to do is have the Obama administration say, 'We are looking for local impact, local input on projects and we will give great weight or at least weight to these recommendations.' And I think that only makes sense. Because, to think that somebody sitting at a desk in Washington, D.C., can appreciate that opportunity down in the Metro East area -- I'm not sure they could," Durbin said, according to a recording of his remarks his office provided to The Huffington Post.

If this were a solitary pursuit on Durbin's part, it wouldn't be so threatening to opponents of earmarks. But the senator also said that he had "talked to the Obama administration" about bringing earmarks back. In addition, a number of House Republicans -- predominantly the newer classes -- have asked leadership to reconsider the ban, as it hurts their ability to direct spending back to their districts.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn't appear to be persuaded. He quickly chastised Durbin for his comments. And Coburn and Udall, it appear, are trying to stamp out any chance that momentum will build in the Senate.

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