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Senate Rejects McCain Earmark Amendment to Omnibus

By Paul Kane

The Senate rejected in bipartisan fashion today a proposal by John McCain (R-Ariz.), the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, that would have flattened government spending and gutted almost $7.7 billion worth of narrow spending projects inserted into catch-all funding legislation that will keep federal agencies running through September.

Receiving just 32 votes for his amendment, McCain was defeated as 54 members of the Senate Democratic caucus and nine Republicans opposed his proposal to leave funding at its current levels and strip the 9,000 congressionally designated projects commonly known as earmarks. Instead, the Senate remains on track to pass the $410 billion legislation, which cobbles together nine of the dozen annual spending bills that are leftover from last year's congressional agenda. The current short-term funding resolution expires Saturday, so Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is trying to get the omnibus legislation approved without any amendments, allowing it to go to the White House for President Obama's signature without having to send it back to the House, which approved the measure last week.

Obama, who campaigned on a pledge that he would roughly halve the number of earmarks in appropriation measures, has said he will sign the omnibus bill while indicating to Democratic leaders last week that he would like to see more reform and transparency in how these provisions are handled in the spending bills up for consideration later this year.

McCain ridiculed Obama for saying he would sign the legislation, arguing that the money would be better spent on more meaningful tasks at a time of national and international crisis. "So much -- so much -- for the promise of change," he said in a floor speech yesterday.

Critics contend that earmarks are wasteful and encourage corruption because many of them are sponsored by members of Congress who also receive contributions from the contractors who receive them and their lobbyists. Supporters, such as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), maintain that the Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse to spend money and individual lawmakers are more keenly aware of the spending needs in their districts than bureaucrats in federal agencies.

At a weekly briefing for reporters today, Hoyer said any opposition from Obama to the $410 billion legislation based on the earmarks would have created "needless disagreement" with Congress and set up a showdown.

Despite their relatively small portion of the $1 trillion in discretionary funding for the federal government, earmarks have become a rallying cry for conservatives looking to shrink the size of the federal government and reform-minded Democrats, including Sens. Russell Feingold (Wis.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.), who supported the McCain measure today.

The overall total of earmarks in the omnibus under consideration this week is less than 2 percent of the legislation's entire cost. Full-year funding for the Pentagon, its military bases and the Department of Homeland Security was approved last fall. When earmarks from that legislation are included with this week's bill, the total value of the projects rises to more than $14 billion.

By Paul Volpe  |  March 3, 2009; 2:15 PM ET
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John McRage is still alive after the beating he took in the last election?

Interesting how his fellow Republicans showed McRage the door on this vote!

Will wonders never cease...

Posted by: beenthere3 | March 3, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

McSour Grapes went after President Obama. "I just went through a campaign, Mr. President, where both candidates promised change in Washington, promised change from the wasteful, disgraceful, corrupting practice of earmark, pork-barrel spending," he said.

Well then where the h*ll was McSour Grapes when Obama needed bipartisanship from the GOP to pass the Stimulus Bill? Don't things work both ways in congress? I didn't see him add a 'yes vote' for the Stimulus Bill along with Spector, Snowe and Collins - did any of you? Instead he stood silently beside his GOP brethren in total opposition.

Furthermore, hold the presses! McSour was only ranting and raving in order to bring attention - lots of attention hopefully warranting several full columns in WaPO no less, about him, John McSour - since McSour is still in 'campaign mode' trying hard to save his cushy senate seat and gearing up for 2010. But he failed to mention that little tidbit while at the lecturn. Otherwise, he would not have opened his mouth because we all know [due to years upon years that his 'pet peeve' has always been 'pork'] he falsely believes this sets him apart from his GOP brethren. After all, when he ran for POTUS, this became the one issue that was paramount on his agenda for every speech - as though eliminating earmarks would solve this global financial meltdown.

Can you just imagine what our lives would now be like had he and Ms. Nincompoop IDIOT won the general election? Talk about anger and depression? OMG, the thought is too much to bear. If the people of Arizona reelect him, they need therapy to find out why they continue to punish themselves. Imagine being married to him - no, that's a really horrible thought!

Posted by: MadasHelinVA | March 3, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

As a resident of southern Arizona, I can tell you from experience, senators McCain and Kyl are not doing ANYTHING productive for our state. Haven't in years. But they keep getting voted back into the senate by the great folks of Arizona who vote their red necks over their blue collars. We are 49th in education funding and the governor wants to cut more out of our "bloated" budget that is so far in the red we will never dig out. Excellent job guys, you have made us proud .... not. Please retire and let somebody who will represent us get into the senate.

Posted by: deadchief | March 3, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Paul Kane returns to the Capital Briefing blog! Or is it Paul Volpe? I'm confused.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | March 3, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I could've sworn when Obama was campaigning --- he sure sounded like he was totally against earmarks, and he said he'd go through the budget line by line and get rid of the ineffective programs, etc. I guess funding for grapes IS important though...

Posted by: ohioan | March 3, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I am no fan of McCain, but these truly are the "Caligula Days" of our nation and he knows it. Confronted with one of the worst financial disasters in our nation's history (actually, our second-worst), members of Congress simply can't resist the opportunity to load down future generations of Americans with massive, inexcusable debt.

I have been saying it for years, but a part of me truly wants the rest of the world to stop buying our garbage debt and send our nation into a catastrophic fiscal downturn.

Only then will Congress and the President find some religion.

Posted by: Losercuda | March 3, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Nice try John but it's the Pork Express and nothing is going to stop it.

Posted by: BubbaRight | March 3, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I didn't remember that Obama campaigned on a promise to "roughly halve" the number of earmarks. What kind of promise is that? Did we buy it? I guess so. Good thing, otherwise we'd be contemplating 18,000 earmarks. No worry, even that is less than 50 per congressman.

Posted by: DnMn | March 3, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

John has his hand full with many distressed homeowners receiving help in his state voting Democratic. Some sensible ideas like E-verify and making sure medicaid money taking states don't cut back on medical services. Some new ideas to spur employment and help business like an investment tax credit. Tax cuts to the Waltons to open another factory in China is plain folly.

Posted by: jameschirico | March 3, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"John McRage is still alive after the beating he took in the last election?

Interesting how his fellow Republicans showed McRage the door on this vote!

Will wonders never cease...

Posted by: beenthere3 | March 3, 2009 2:36 PM "
I love people like you criticizing it. It appears that McCain was interesting in making some REAL change not just "change for campaign."

if you read the article only 9 republicans voted against it yet 54 democrats opposed. Republicans do earmarks as much as democrats but its just funny to watch Obama lie and go against nearly every one of his campaign promises.

"Change you can believe in" = Pull out your stock money early and put a kung fu grip on your wallet.

Posted by: Cryos | March 3, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

$410 billion legislation...

$30 billion annual shortfall to end world hunger...

Political Priorities by the numbers.

Read more about what we can do to change this, at the

Posted by: alenka | March 3, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Maybe he required the blessings of Rist Limpblah and Sarah Painin to sway his republic party confederates.

Posted by: whocares666 | March 3, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

"Supporters, such as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), maintain that the Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse to spend money and individual lawmakers are more keenly aware of the spending needs in their districts than bureaucrats in federal agencies."

you vote for higher taxes, you get higher taxes.

Posted by: millionea7 | March 3, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

It looks like McCain, not only a two time Presidential Candidate loser, has been made IRRELEVANT in the Senate.


Posted by: wlockhar | March 3, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

I think the best part is that there is more GOP pork in this package then Dem Pork! Bacon anyone?

Posted by: sfilutze | March 3, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Poor McCain,still lost in the "Wilderness".

I guess some of those Republican Senators that voted on the Bill, did not consider those earmarks to be "Pork" in their states.

Oink Oink!

Posted by: lcarter0311 | March 3, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

As an Arizona resident McSlime is always a total imbarresment to me. I am glad to see him get put in his place.

Deadchief has it right, also!!

Posted by: Ranger-Phx | March 3, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I wish I could get my vote back. I would just keep it, it isn't worth anything.

Posted by: linda_521 | March 3, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I am no fan of McCain, but these truly are the "Caligula Days" of our nation and he knows it. Confronted with one of the worst financial disasters in our nation's history (actually, our second-worst), members of Congress simply can't resist the opportunity to load down future generations of Americans with massive, inexcusable debt.


This is nonsense. As long as the money stays in the US it will not add to our debt other than the interest on the money between when it is spent by the Federal government and when it is recaptured through taxation.

And of course whatever lost opportunity cost there is in spending it this way vs another way.

Posted by: dubya19391 | March 3, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

The funniest thing is that the only guy who is standing up to Obama and saying, 'hey keep your campaign promises' about congressional earmarks is the guy who ran against him. That to me is pretty hilarious.

What is sad is that instead of people who voted for Obama (like me say) being angry that he is going back on his campaign promise about earmarks. People feel the need to make fun of McCain, smart people, very smart.

If Obama is going to go around claiming that he is not business as usual, and he is going to clean things up, blah blah blah blah blah..........And you vote him. You should be watching carefully.

Actions speak alot louder than words, so far Obama has talked a big game about earmarks, populism, etc... etc... but there hasn't been a whole lot of substance.

Posted by: DCDave11 | March 3, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Note that both parties are full of bull feces.

Their only concern is getting re-elected thus they have to take care of the lobbyists, and those at home.

I propose an end to earmarks and pork by all those on the Hill.

Instead of money coming from all taxpayers it should come from those states, counties and cities that BENEFIT from those earmarks/pork items. Meaning that the money will come from that allocated to each representatives state from the government.

Thus I do not have to pay for that bridge to no where in Alaska, the bio-fuel complexes in illinois and etc. THAT WOULD END THE PORK/AND EARMARKS.. each state would have to SELF FUND the spending of their elected officials.

Obama PROMISED to END earmarks/pork and to have the budget gone through line item by line item and REDUCE SPENDING.

Guess once you get elected THERE ARE NO CHANGES.

You can lie, cheat, steal and do as YOU DA-N well please with no fear of anyone doing anything to you.

I knew that BUSH WAS the Worst President in our history, BUT I was mistaken...


Posted by: miller51550 | March 3, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

"...As long as the money stays in the US it will not add to our debt other than the interest on the money between when it is spent by the Federal government and when it is recaptured through taxation."

I have probably never heard anything so patently absurd.

Posted by: Losercuda | March 3, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

"McCain ridiculed Obama for saying he would sign the legislation..."

Well, why not, he didn't get to ridicule anybody for 5 1/2 years! I bet Cindy is the butt of a lot of his ridicule too, along with That One.
The Republicans love to oversimplify these spending projects to make them sound ridiculous when they have good purposes behind them.
The private sector seems to be failing from its own free-market principles. Hurray for Milton Friedman and the Chicago-school economic chumps.

Posted by: bdunn1 | March 3, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Who cares what that desiccated old man has to say. We've got bigger things to worry about like global poverty.

The Borgen Project ( has some interesting insight into addressing the issues of global poverty, something we can remedy easily and sustainably.

Some interesting figures to ponder:
$30 billion USD: The annual shortfall to end global poverty.
$550 billion USD: The annual US defense budget.

Posted by: concernedcitizen1111 | March 3, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

>>"...As long as the money stays in the US it will not add to our debt other than the interest on the money between when it is spent by the Federal government and when it is recaptured through taxation."

"I have probably never heard anything so patently absurd."

You should get out more often.

Federal monies spent in the US remain in the US until that money is spent overseas or carried overseas by domestic recipients. In the main that is not an issue with Federal expenditures, but is in any case an issue of the trade deficit not the budget deficit, and of course taxes and tariffs are paid on incoming goods & services. Taxes are also paid on labor performed out of the country.

The real concern with deficit spending is the financing of the debt, which just like a mortgage, can become the dominant part of the total debt.
Unfortunately to spend more on servicing the debt in order to borrow more efficiently will remove money from the domestic money supply and thus accelerate the recession.

I don't see how this is ludicrous at all, in fact it's quite true and the main issue with domestic spending. It's not so much what you spend, it's how you spend it. The argument could be made that the most efficient way for Congress to spend money would be to simply fund bonds and let the market for money determine how the bond revenue should be invested.

But efficiency and responsible government-spending are often at odds.

Posted by: dubya19391 | March 3, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

"Unfortunately to spend more on servicing the debt in order to borrow more efficiently will remove money from the domestic money supply and thus accelerate the recession."

...otherwise the government could kick the country out of a recession merely by paying-down government debt. Take the $1T (and climbing) from the corporate bailout package and combine it with the $1T from the stimulus package and apply it to the overall federal debt and you'd have quite a stimulus package. If that's how it would work out. But it won't work out that way.

What is really unfortunate is that sooner or later we're going to have to do that and it's going to be less effective in the future than it would be if we did it right now.

Posted by: dubya19391 | March 3, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

The statement you find absurd, bdunn, is among many absurd things these people post. They are uneducated, some have a hard time putting a sentence together, and can not see the lies. They must still think BO is going to give them something. Well, he lied about that, too. He will truly go down as the worst pres in history! He was going to get right on the economy? Right!! He is still campaiging. His cohorts can not get the banking thing right, much less the economy. All they know to do is spend and tax!!

Posted by: annnort | March 3, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

"His cohorts can not get the banking thing right, much less the economy. All they know to do is spend and tax!!"

...look, there's nothing wrong with spending and taxing, do you expect the government to do anything else? It's a bipartisan activity. They are only fighting over what to spend and what to tax.

It doesn't matter how much the government spends or how much it taxes when it is spending and taxing less than 10% of the national GDP. It's all in the margins. The problem is what happens when the economy collapses and suddenly the government is spending and taxing 25% of GDP instead of just 10%. But even that is not a huge deal, fiscally, it's only a huge deal in terms of politics. Money spent and taxed starts to become huge in terms of political leverage when it's a large part of the overall GDP.

Posted by: dubya19391 | March 3, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

John 90% McCain at your age why would you whine of over 1%.

Heads Up! You and Kyle are probably done in Arizona. President Obama ate your lunch he had your former votes jumping for Joy when he advised them that HE would help them.

You and Kyle at the urging of RUSH voted NO. Your state is hurting.

Posted by: msgbill | March 3, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse anyway here really is the nightmare scenario, the federal fiscal whiplash that we have to watch out for. The Federal budget is based on the previous years expenditure which always grows. Just like the housing market was supposed to grow continuously, right? Well suppose that since we are in a recession the economy shrinks by say 5% this year. It could be more. It could be 10%, 20%. We're not sure yet. Things look very bad now. But taxes are based on pre-recession earnings. So say that last year was the top of the peak and the country is paying say 10% of GDP in taxes and the government spends 15% of GDP between its normal spending, the increase, and the two stimulus packages combined. So federal debt rises and the treasury of course has to finance that debt. Now next year the tax revenue has to decrease as a result of the various tax cuts in the stimulus package combined with the preexisting drop in GDP that comes out of the recession. What do we do with federal spending next year? Cut it, raise it or keep it the same? Cutting it will negatively affect the economy, raising it will at best keep the economy chugging along at the same rate, and keeping it the same will of course be a net loss. You get a nice whiplash effect from the combined effect of rising taxes this year and reduced or at best flat spending next year. That is going to cause the federal debt to truly balloon, meaning that we have to cut spending *again* to keep interest on the debt to manageable levels...and just like with the housing market you are going to see a spiral where the value of the dollar decreases every year while we struggle more and more to service the federal debt. If there is any *one* thing that both parties are leading us into it is that fiscal death-spiral. We simply cannot afford to borrow money and spend good money servicing bad debt whether it is federal debt or private debt.

The problem is that the time for the Republican party to stand up and fight this was in 2004 not in 2009 and given the same situation in 2004 they chose to increase federal spending and cut taxes following the same logic that Obama and the Democrats are working under right now. All they are doing that is different is trying to ensure that it doesn't go into the hands of the private investment spectrum. They are increasing taxes on the wealthy and trying to control Federal spending better but the same logic applies. We need to invest in this countrys' future or it will not have one other than as a 3rd-world country. Only through sheer hypocrisy are the Republicans arguing against this. Their problem with increased spending is merely that they are not in charge of where the money is going.

Posted by: dubya19391 | March 3, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

I guess this pretty much seals McCain's irrelivence. Do us all a favor John and go on a permanant cruise.

Posted by: TRACIETHEDOLPHIN | March 3, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

McCain is just now figuring out that 0bama was lying YET AGAIN when he blathered on about no earmarks?

Poor John hasn't figured out that Zero can't tell the truth.

Posted by: NeverLeft | March 3, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

So the Republicans rant about earmarks but the amount of Republican earmarks in this bill is as great as the amount of Democratic earmarks... so which Republicans are the ones that are truly against spending? Very few. I think McConnell racked up $75 million and red, red red Mississippi got the most. So why are the GOP ranters not clobbering Mississippi for being so darn greedy and spending those taxpayer dollars that they cherish so much? The GOP is just a sham. They spent it under Bush and they are spending it now, just pretending that they don't want to.

Posted by: goldie2 | March 3, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

I have read that only three or four Senators were actually on the Senate floor during McCain's made-for-CSPAN speech. It is fitting that one of them was Thad Cochran, R-Miss., whose state was the greatest beneficiary of earmark money. Was he the Designated Whipping Boy for McCain's wrath?

Posted by: wkorn | March 3, 2009 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Obama Presidential Nominees, Senior Democratic Party Office Holders who are known TAX cheats:

Tom Daschle Democrat - Former Senate Majority leader, HHS Secretary nominee

Ron Kirk, Democrat - Trade Representative

Tim Geithner, Democrat - Treasury Sec. (IRS)

Charlie Rangel Democrat - 38 Years as a Congressman, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means

Barney Frank Democrat - 28 Years as Congressman, Chairman of the House Committee on House Financial Services - Responsible for Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Oversight. Wow! His former lover was a senior official at Fannie Man! Wow!

Nancy Killefer Democrat, Office of Gov’t Efficiency (Orwellian)

Hilda L. Solis Democrat, Labor Sec.

Al Franken Democrat (not in El Duce's Administration, but still a rabid lying Tax Cheat), also a voter fraud poster boy

Al Sharpton Democrat Civil Rights Leader

Go check it out sheeple.

Oh, BTW McCain - Political Hack, Prostitute Extraordinaire, Defeat in the next Senatorial primary with extreme prejudice.

Posted by: falconflight | March 3, 2009 8:39 PM | Report abuse

McCain has a preoccupation with earmarks that is just plain daffy. Earmarks may enrage the idiot "drown it in the bathtub" Republicans but they are no more significant in the budget than incense burning is to air pollution. The addled moron has no sense of scale, and he doesn't realize that the election is over and it's time to get back to what matters.

The man is a narcissist, a baby crying for attention.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | March 3, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Wait... He's freaking out over $7.7 billion dollars in earmarks when the total budget is, what, $3.6 trillion?

That's about one fifth of one percent.

Talk about grandstanding...

Posted by: mason08 | March 3, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't like McCain, but he's dead right on this. Bush was wrong, Obama is wrong.

The Obamanation in Washington is GW Bush II.

It is time for Congressional term limits!

Posted by: Guilden_NL | March 4, 2009 12:17 AM | Report abuse

good for you mccain. The democrats have been crying about the republicans only complaining and not coming up with resolutions and twice now mccain has offered solutions that will amend and cut the wasteful government spending but the demy's keep voting no to them. At least hes trying to do something about more wasteful spending. Hes always done this even fighting his very own party when they were in power. Mccain doesn't care if he comes across as angry cause he says he is. Its crap how much wasteful spending is going on and its your money. I love his passion for what he believes in. Hes truly one of the very few honest and good guys out there.

Posted by: chowder1 | March 4, 2009 12:36 AM | Report abuse

Maybe he's making a big deal about the 7.7 billion dollars because he is thinking in terms of 10-20 years ago when a billion dollars seemed to be a lot of money. Thanks to George bullpoop and his senility we are paying the price, that's what happens when you put those old republicans in the white house instead of a old folks home. Not even daddy bush can gangster his way out of this. Well as long as it looks good on paper right??? Isn't that the way they teach it in accounting and economics at school?

Posted by: aarodriguez4146 | March 4, 2009 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Another cheap shot at Obama. If he vetoed the Stimulus bill because earmarks, he gets called out of touch because economy needs the jump start ASAP. If anything, it does show how little control our system of Govt give the President over spending if there is no line item veto.

Posted by: oneball | March 4, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

people will change the format of the goverment again 2010 and obama will be powerless the new congress will have thier work restoring the nation

Posted by: coppercreeksmoot | March 4, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

When the moment arrives to trim fat from costly outdated "defense" projects, John McCain might serve his nation and his legacy by acting upon Eisenhower's parting admonition to beware the military-industrial complex.

Posted by: FirstMouse1 | March 4, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

To all you guys ranting about pork, pet projects, and earmarks:

A Pet Project, as you call it, IS a job. Grapes, Sea Turtles, whatever it is the money is going to help emply people to carry them out. With people unemployed, right now, today, these projects will help if they keep a guy employed for even only a year on a pet project. What you people really MEAN when you say 'job' is permanent employment... like with GE, or Xerox, or GM? The companies doing all the layoffs now? Think about what you're saying before you spew some garbage you hear from someone else.

Posted by: sql_yoda | March 4, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse

It is very easy to kick a man when he is down !!! John McCain is a lot of things, but a liar he is not. Our newly elected POTUS has proven beyond a reason of doubt that he is not up for the job. He is a nice man but that is where it ends. During the campaign he stated on numerous occassions that he would not tolerate ear marks (PORK) if he became President. So much for his word.

Posted by: alamogeezer | March 7, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

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