In an article published yesterday at the Politico, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) signaled a willingness to end the Republicans’ moratorum on earmarks, a bad message to send to tea partyers:
Cantor also signaled that earmarks may come back, after a one-year hiatus in which House Republicans set a moratorium on all earmark requests. But should the spending items reappear, they’ll be based on “merit, not muscle,” he said.
“If there are earmarks, there will be an earmark process that will ensure we’re doing everything we can to show the people that their dollars are not being wasted on monuments to me, on waste and pork,” Cantor said.
The problem with earmarks is two-fold. The obvious is that they are overwhelmingly wasteful and egregious, something that Washington had finally started to get control of. Politicians use them to build monuments to themselves, influence other legislators, pander to constituents by “bringing home the bacon,” reward campaign contributors and to pick winners and losers.
I know some fiscal conservatives and libertarians have adapted Rep. Ron Paul’s view of earmarks. I disagree. Earmarks, while representing a fraction of the budget, are symbolic of everything that we have come to despise about Washington. The practice isn’t subject to a bidding process and there are no hearings on earmarks to determine the merit of a project. Appropriators simply insert a project in a spending bill and the treasury is raided.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has filed paperwork to start a Capitol Hill Tea Party Caucus, according to Minnesota Public Radio:
“The American people are speaking out loud and clear. They have had enough of the spending, the bureaucracy, and the government knows best mentality running rampant today throughout the halls of Congress. This caucus will espouse the timeless principles of our founding, principles that all Members of Congress have sworn to uphold,” Bachmann stated. “The American people are doing their part and making their voices heard and this caucus will prove that there are some here in Washington willing to listen.”
Rand Paul, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, has also floated the idea, likely including Mike Lee and Sharron Angle as well as fiscally conservative senators like Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), but some of his possible colleagues are cool to the idea:
So who wants to join Rand Paul’s “tea-party” caucus?
“I don’t know about that,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) replied with a nervous laugh. “I’m not sure I should be participating in this story.”
Republican lawmakers see plenty of good in the tea party, but they also see reasons to worry. The movement, which has ignited passion among conservative voters and pushed big government to the forefront of the 2010 election debate, has also stirred quite a bit of controversy. Voters who don’t want to privatize Social Security or withdraw from the United Nations could begin to see the tea party and the Republican Party as one and the same.