Advocates for a three-year moratorium on earmarks in the U.S. Senate don’t appear to have enough votes to implement the reform issue next week. Republican leaders in the House are promising to extend their earmark moratorium, and now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he’d support a ban in that chamber. “On the other hand, Harry Reid still is not supportive of the ban,” said UW Madison political scientist David Cannon. “With the Democratic leadership not on board, and some prominent Republicans like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina indicating he doesn’t think it’s a good idea, it’s not a done deal.” Reid, the Majority Leader in the Senate, negotiated a tough agreement with Senate Republican leaders, requiring 67 votes for the earmark moratorium to win adoption. Republican leaders agreed to the high threshold, seeing it as the only way to get a vote on the proposal.
Despite the high media exposure generated by earmarks in general and notorious individual examples like Alaska’s ‘bridge to nowhere,’ Cannon noted that when it comes to the part earmarks play in the federal deficit, they’re not a major factor. “It’s just a percent of the overall spending in the budget,” he said. “Even the critics agree it’s less than one percent of the budget. Not to say that one percent isn’t worth dealing with.” And Cannon said any ban on earmarks doesn’t necessarily mean that the federal budget will be decreased, but that money may be redirected from projects favored by members of congress into other areas of spending.