Republican Senators whose earmark requests pepper the much-maligned omnibus spending bill are having a really hard time explaining how they went from requesting earmarks earlier this year to decrying the legislation… because of all the earmarks. But never let it be said that those requests were baked into the spending package before the anti-pork wave hit in November.
After the Republican caucus voted to impose an earmark moratorium last month, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) — who’s likely to face a primary challenge from the right in 2012 — asked Senate appropriators to strip his earmarks from the omnibus.
“I did,” Hatch confirmed to me this afternoon after a Senate vote, “because I decided I voted for the moratorium, and I thought ‘well, I need to do that.’”
He’s having an easier day than a lot of Republican senators who are having to answer charges of hypocrisy.
On Wednesday morning, in a tense exchange with reporters at a press conference, Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and John Cornyn (R-TX) swatted away tough questions about the tension between their positions on the bill, and the fact that the bill is loaded up with their earmark requests.
This afternoon, I asked Thune, a likely GOP presidential candidate, why he didn’t do what Hatch did.
“I guess I hadn’t thought about doing it,” he confessed. “The resolution that we passed applied to the next two years, it didn’t apply to this budget year [but] we are where we are now, the bill’s on the floor, but I think that we have an opportunity to strip earmarks out on the floor, we will. And we may get that opportunity.”
It already looks like an awfully shrewd move by Hatch, who will be able to face the anti-earmark crusaders in his base and say he honored their will.
“People have the right to do whatever they want,” he said. “I just felt my own personal moral obligation to do that.”
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 email@example.com.