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As the Earmarks Turn

Two weeks ago, House Republicans emerged from their annual retreat with a call for Democrats to agree to a temporary earmark moratorium and the formation of a bipartisan committee to recommend changes to the earmarking process.

Democrats never gave much of a response -- other than to defend their own record and accuse Republicans of hypocrisy.

So Republicans decided to try to force the issue on the House floor this morning. Today's vote was on "ordering the previous question," or whether to proceed to a vote on the rule governing debate for a higher education bill. If ordering the previous question had failed, Republicans would have been able to offer an amendment calling for the moratorium and the commission to be instituted. The GOP effort failed, as the House voted 204-196 to proceed to a vote on the rule.

The GOP didn't actually expect to succeed today, but they at least hoped to push some vulnerable Democrats to take a politically tough vote. Seven Democrats ended up voting with Republicans -- Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Nancy Boyda (Kan.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Nick Lampson (Texas) and Tim Mahoney (Fla.) -- and all of them represent marginal districts. Another 20 Democrats didn't show up for the vote.

For those vulnerable Democrats, the risk of having a GOP opponent run ads saying they "voted for pork" was a real one. If the GOP came close to winning the vote, Democratic leaders would have twisted some of their arms to stick with the party.

Mahoney, who was able to win a Republican-leaning South Florida seat last year after scandal-plagued Rep. Mark Foley dropped out of the race -- said his vote was based on principle, not politics.

"I don't agree with the position that Republicans are taking on it, but I just wanted to point out the fact that there needs to be more earmark reform," he said. "I don't want anyone to interpret that I'm agreeing with Republicans on this."

Mahoney said he supported the idea of a commission on earmarks, but not the moratorium, and added that he wasn't worried about election attacks on the issue because he has been consistently in favor of ethics and earmark reform.

With their bid to force the issue on the House floor having failed, it's not clear what Republicans' next step is on their effort to put earmarks back on the media's radar. The topic won't likely regain traction until later in the year, when actual appropriations bills with actual pork start to move. Then the GOP may be able to get more than seven Democrats to go along with them.

By Ben Pershing  |  February 7, 2008; 2:20 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules , House , Purse Strings  
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Once again Congress is failing the American people that put them in office because they were tired of Bush and his cronies. They need to step and do their job while they still have one. All is BS needs to stop. DO YOUR JOB DAMMIT. Your performance reviews are not going to be good unless you start doing your job.

Posted by: jc | February 7, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

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