Why the GOP should shut up about earmarks.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
March 12 2009 5:49 PM

Why the GOP Should Shut Up

Six out of the top 10 Senate earmark hogs are Republicans.

Mitch McConnell. Click image to expand.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants you to know that he voted against the $410 billion spending bill President Obama signed into law on March 11. His fellow Republicans "tried to cut the bill's cost. Our ideas would have saved billions of taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, every one was turned aside." Well, not every one. According to this spreadsheet prepared by Taxpayers for Common Sense, the spending bill incorporates 53 ideas put forth by McConnell himself in the form of legislative earmarks. Far from lowering the spending bill's cost, they increased it by $76 million.

Compared with his fellow Republicans, McConnell is a relative piker. Here is a list of the Senate's 10 biggest earmark hogs, based on dollar amounts in the spending bill:

1. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.: $474 million
2. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.: $391 million
3. Mary Landrieu, D-La.: $332 million
4. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa: $292 million
5. David Vitter, R-La.: $249 million
6. Christopher Bond, R-Mo.: $248 million
7. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: $235 million
8. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii: $225 million
9. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.: $219 million
10. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa: $199 million

No fewer than six out of these 10 senators are Republicans, including the two top earmark hogs, Cochran and Wicker. Cochran, Wicker, Bond, and Shelby at least had the decency to vote for the bill after they stuffed it with earmarks. Vitter and Grassley followed McConnell's hypocritical lead, inserting earmarks but then voting against the final bill, knowing it would pass anyway. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who because of a legal dispute over election results doesn't even have a Senate seat and isn't likely to recover it in court, nonetheless managed to rank in the top third of earmark hogs with a haul of $109 million. His Democratic opponent and the likely victor, Al Franken, got none.

Remember this next time you hear Republicans piss and moan about Democrats' spendthrift ways.

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.

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