McCaskill again tries to ban earmarks


McClatchy Newspapers

Sen. Claire McCaskill is making another run at ending earmarks after the Missouri Democrat tried but failed during her first term in Congress.

McCaskill will reintroduce legislation today designed to halt the practice of earmarking, which enables lawmakers to designate funds for special projects back home without legislative scrutiny.

The bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, would create a point of order against any legislation containing earmarks. A two-thirds vote would be required to waive the point of order.

“We’re changing the culture of Congress to one where members are judged based on how much taxpayer money they save, not how much they spend,” McCaskill said in a statement. “Now, while we’re focused on cutting wasteful spending, is the time to make our temporary ban on earmarks a permanent ban on earmarks and guard against the return of this practice.”

McCaskill helped establish a temporary moratorium on earmarks in 2010. She has been trying unsuccessfully to implement a permanent ban since 2011. The most recent attempt was defeated in the Senate just under a year ago in a 59-40 vote.

McCaskill points out that she has never asked for an earmark. But her critics — including her 2012 opponent, Todd Akin — have accused her of hypocritically voting for bills containing earmarks, even as she spoke out against them in news conferences and political ads.

“Claire McCaskill complaining about government spending is like Paris Hilton complaining about the paparazzi,” said Ed Martin, chairman of the Missouri Republican Party. “Claire McCaskill’s career has been defined by wasteful federal spending.”

A spokesman for McCaskill defended her record, saying she was one of the first Senate Democrats to take a stance against earmarks.

“But she wasn’t going to sit out the entire legislative process on bills critical for Missouri if they had earmarks in them,” said the spokesman, John LaBombard.

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