Reid Calls Earmark Ban "Pretty Talk," Not Helpful

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 25 2011 3:40 PM

Reid Calls Earmark Ban "Pretty Talk," Not Helpful

This morning, Jake Tapper scooped that the State of the Union would include a ban on earmarks, a fulfillment of a tattered 2008 campaign pledge and a major win for Tea Party activists. At today's briefing with reporters, Politico's Meredith Shiner asked Majority Leader Harry Reid to response to the idea, which he's always opposed.

"I think this issue that any president would like to have," said Reid. "It takes power away from the legislative branch of government, and I think it's the wrong thing to do. I don't think it's helpful... it's a lot of pretty talk. It's only giving the president more power. He's got enough power."

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This was the argument Reid and some Republicans used in 2010, after the election and before the GOP agreed to an earmark ban. At the time, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said that a ban, which wouldn't actually cut the size of budgets, would simply allow the executive branch to direct spending. Inhofe's colleague Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who sponsored transparency legislation with Barack Obama when they were in the Senate, dismissed this, saying that the executive branch could be shamed out of wasteful spending with better oversight.

"The bureaucracy can't spend money unless we allow it to," said Coburn. "For every thousand earmarks, there's one oversight hearing. There ought to be a thousand hearings for every earmark."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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