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Harry Reid Defends Earmarks, Says Obama Is 'Wrong'

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WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) emphatically broke with President Barack Obama and other reform-minded Democrats Tuesday, saying the president is "wrong" in opposing earmarks.

Earmarks are the spending measures that lawmakers used to be able to tack onto legislation to fund pet projects in their districts, but Congress eliminated most of them several years ago amid public outcries against pork larded onto vital spending measures.

Yet some leading lawmakers, including Reid's highest ranking lieutenant, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), have been pushing to bring them back.

Reid added his robust support at his weekly news conference with reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

"I have been a fan of earmarks since I got here the first day," Reid said. "I disagree -- underline, underscored, big exclamation mark -- with Obama. He's wrong."

One of the biggest problems with earmarks was that it was all but impossible to tell who was responsible for many of them, and equally difficult to tell if they were crafted to benefit specific donors or constituents improperly.

Reid suggested that issue could be addressed, while giving the power back to local lawmakers.

"If there needs to be more transparency than what we had, then fine, do it," Reid said. "But it is wrong to have bureaucrats downtown ... make decisions in Nevada that I can make better than they can," Reid said. "This is something that has been going on for centuries in our country, and it has worked quite well."

On Monday, one of the rising stars in the Democratic caucus, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, chimed in on Obama's side, telling HuffPost Live that bringing back earmarks won't help. "I don't think so," she said. "I think what the Senate needs to function is to remember who sent people there."

The issue is not likely to go anywhere soon. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently said he is opposed to bringing back earmarks.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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