If you ask Republicans around the country, they’ll probably tell you that Tuesday’s election results were all about pushing back against excessive government spending. Problem is, they may have forgotten to elect anyone who’s actually planning on real budget cuts.
Rep. John Boehner, presumptively the next Speaker of the House and a longtime rhetorical foe of earmark spending in its present form, told a Fox News host on Thursday that the proposed ban on congressional earmarks he’d been talking up was officially off the table.
Boehner, who has personally upheld the no-earmark principle, had before the elections advocated a year-long ban on financial appropriations for individual districts. Now he says there will be a “moratorium,” but has not said for how long and refuses to hold fellow Republicans to his own standard of never bringing tax dollars back to constituents.
So, why a reversal on the earmark ban? “Only because some things that people call earmarks here, uh, wouldn’t classify as an earmark to the American people,” he explained to Fox News host Bret Baier.
The refusal to ban earmarks should not come as a surprise to media savvy tea party Republicans. Appearing on Fox News just days before the elections, Boehner repeatedly refused to answer whether or not the party would end the practice, saying instead that a GOP-run House would not conduct “business as usual.”
Sorry, tea parties, but it’s not like New York Times columnist Frank Rich didn’t try to warn you.
“[Whatever] Tuesday’s results, this much is certain: The Tea Party’s hopes for actually effecting change in Washington will start being dashed the morning after,” he wrote on Oct. 30. “The ordinary Americans in this movement lack the numbers and financial clout to muscle their way into the back rooms of Republican power no matter how well their candidates perform.
“Trent Lott, the former Senate leader and current top-dog lobbyist, gave away the game in July. ‘We don’t need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples,’ he said, referring to the South Carolina senator who is the Tea Party’s Capitol Hill patron saint. ‘As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.’”
But, co-opt them into doing what, exactly? The answer now seems quite apparent: Spending, and lots of it, which would seem to fall perfectly in line with recent history.
When Republicans controlled Congress from 1994-2006, earmark spending went from under $8 billion to over $29 billion, according to watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. All of it happened in spite of GOP pledges to the contrary.
Now that the GOP is to control House appropriations in 2011 and beyond, tea party Republicans will look to hold them accountable for every last dollar. Every piece of spending could be construed as another black mark.
“I thought [Boehner] was about listening to us? I thought he was against the waste?” a blogger for Conservatives Network wrote, responding to the earmark reversal. “I guess the past two years worth of rhetoric on spending was a lot of theatrics on his part.”
This video was broadcast by Fox News on Nov. 4, 2010, as snipped by watchdog group Media Matters.