How untenable is the idea of eliminating earmarks? So untenable that Republicans are now borrowing from Bill Clinton to walk back what was recently one of their top initiatives.
“I am proud to stand with Leader Boehner in calling for an end to earmarking as we know it,” Tweeted House GOP conference chair Mike Pence today. The sentiment was echoed — retweeted, as the kids like to call it — by Boehner himself, and Pence put out a statement today calling for “Congress to make the hard choices that are necessary to break Washington’s spending addiction, and ending earmarks as we know them is a step in the right direction.”
If that language sounds familiar to you, it should. It’s almost word for word identical to President Bill Clinton’s pledge to “end welfare as we know it.” Of course, Clinton hardly ended welfare — he reformed it.
Clinton no more ended welfare than Republicans plan to end earmarks. The GOP Pledge to America is entirely silent on earmarks, and Boehner has been unable to say, when pressed, that Republicans will push to end earmarks altogether if they retake the House.
For those keeping budget score, however, it’s worth pointing out that a complete elimination of earmarks would reduce the budget deficit by $0.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.