POLITICS
12/16/2010 01:26 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Harry Reid's Office Ramps Up Criticism Of GOP Earmark Hypocrisy

WASHINGTON -- If Senate Democratic leadership fails to pass a trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill before the end of the year, it will not be without exacting a bit of revenge first.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office ramped up an effort to paint Republicans as budget hypocrites for railing against earmarks in the omnibus when many of those earmarks were, in fact, authored by Republicans.

"Republicans say to their constituents, 'You need a new highway? No problem. Comin' right up!' But as soon as they touch down at National Airport something changes, and the promises they made to constituents, and the money they secured to help their states, are considered evil acts of governance," said Reid spokesman Jon Summers. "It's hypocrisy at its finest."

The statement -- designed either to shame the GOP into supporting the omnibus or simply to quiet their criticisms -- came after several prominent Republicans took swipes at the package, despite having put pork into it. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) called the spending bill an "outrage" that demonstrated "profound disrespect for the American people." Among those disrespectful items, however, were millions of dollars' worth of earmarks for (largely defensible) defense projects.

The Texas senator insisted that he could simultaneously oppose the omnibus and contribute to it. The earmarks, he explained, were inserted well before the Republican caucus decided to support a moratorium on the practice.

But by Thursday there was a bit more contrition. "Ever notice how dangerous it is for an elected official to publically [sic] change their mind on an issue?" Cornyn tweeted.

Perhaps a systematic shift had occurred, as Slate's Dave Weigel noted. In future budget or spending bills it could very well be that Republicans won't insert earmarks and, subsequently, will be able to rail against the measure without a guilty conscience. But with regards to the current package, GOP lawmakers are having their cake, eating it too, and getting only small slaps on the wrist for it.

There is, perhaps, no better example of this than the debate over a $400,000 earmark to study deepening Charleston Harbor. Back in September, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) -- a scourge of spending in any variety -- made news when he accused fellow Senators of "playing politics" by trying to block the relatively small expenditure. He supported the project and wanted to see it go through, but claimed that lawmakers were holding it up as a way of making an example of his anti-earmark screeds.

Democrats jumped on the comment, insisting that DeMint was supporting pork barreling in practice if not philosophy. By October, the senator had tinkered with his tune. He would resist pressure from his home state to support the earmark.

"They all want me to push an earmark so they can say, 'Look at DeMint,'" the senator told the Wall Street Journal.

But while DeMint continued to oppose the expenditure through the year (as his office confirmed to The Huffington Post), his Republican colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), was making sure that funding for the Charleston Harbor didn't die. And when the omnibus spending bill was put online, $379,000 was set aside for Corps of Engineers investigations into the harbor.

Graham wasn't the only sponsor. House Democratic members from South Carolina's congressional delegation were responsible as well. But while those Democrats will likely vote for the measure, and be chastised for it, Graham and DeMint won't.

Asked for comment, Graham's office sent over a press release they published on Tuesday with the title, "Graham to Oppose 1,900 Page, $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill: Measure Includes Graham-Requested $379,000 for Port of Charleston Harbor Deepening Study."