‘Earmark’ ban proves an early obstacle to GOP unity

By Lisa Mascaro|Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — A dispute among influential Republican lawmakers over a ban on “earmark” spending threatens an area of potential bipartisan agreement between the GOP and White House in the aftermath of last week’s midterm election.

The incoming House Republican majority has proposed extending a moratorium on earmarks, which are funds requested by individual lawmakers for specific projects back home.

On Tuesday, conservative Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina said that he would press his GOP colleagues in the Senate to adopt a similar moratorium when lawmakers returned to Washington next week.

But several senior Republican lawmakers consider earmarks part of their constitutional obligation to determine how federal money is spent. They disagree with election-year rhetoric that government spending can be reined in with a strict earmark ban. A ban is an idea that “doesn’t save any money,” said Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader.

The disagreement is surfacing at a crucial point. Republicans, fresh from winning control of the House and gaining seats in the Senate, will make their first attempt next week to convert ideas from successful political campaigns into governing policy.

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