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Elizabeth Warren Is Not On The 'Bring Back Earmarks' Bandwagon

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WASHINGTON -- One of the Senate's foremost progressive voices is not on board with the recent push from various corners of the chamber to reinstitute earmarks.

In an interview with Huffpost Live on Monday afternoon, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was asked whether she believed that earmarking was needed in order to help restore order and productivity to Congress.

"I don't think so," she replied. "I think what the Senate needs to function is to remember who sent people there. ... We have to think about what is happening at this moment in our history. It really is a question about whether those with money and power, who have been consolidating their hold on Washington, are going to continue to do that. Or are we going to rebalance the playing field?"

The message from Warren -- at once dismissive of earmarks and eager to move the subject back to the themes of her book, A Fighting Chance -- doesn't bode well for those senators trying to spearhead an earmark revival. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-ranked member of his party, has been particularly ardent in making the case for bringing back the congressional spending projects, which were outlawed in the House in 2010 and in the Senate in 2011. He and others have argued that it should be the legislative branches' prerogative to determine where taxpayer money goes.

"It may be blasphemy to some, but I can honestly say that one of the single worst things Congress has done in recent years was to impose a ban on earmarks," said Jim Manley, former top spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "With one single bad move you have given the executive branch agencies much more authority over spending than they deserve, and quite candidly taken away a key tool that the leadership has used in the past to corral votes, while doing very little to reduce overall spending."

This hasn't been just a Democratic agenda item, either. On Sunday, Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) called for "congressionally directed spending" that was "transparent and accountable" -- a diplomatic way of saying earmarks that are documented. House Republicans, likewise, have pushed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to reconsider his opposition.

Boehner has done the exact opposite, responding to Durbin's push by reaffirming his support for the earmark ban. He's been joined by a number of Senate Republicans as well, including Tom Coburn (Okla.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Pat Toomey (Penn.), John Barrasso (Wyo.) and Mike Lee (Utah.).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) also signed on to a letter urging congressional leadership to keep earmarks banned. Warren now becomes the second Democrat to echo that sentiment, at least partially.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Sen. Mark Udall as a Republican.

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