Does President Obama Really Support an Earmark Ban?

House and Senate GOP leaders are now unified in support of an earmark ban.  Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s announcement that he would support an earmark ban in the 112th Congress reinforces Republicans’ commitment to ending business as usual in Washington.  More importantly, it means that only President Obama and Washington Democrats stand in the way of this critical effort to restore public trust.

For his part, President Obama issued a statement praising Sen. McConnell’s announcement and reiterating his support for “cracking down” on earmarks.  Yet, nowhere in his statement does the president urge the leaders of his party to hold simple up-or-down votes on imposing an earmark ban, something House and Senate Republicans will do this week.  It appears the president is not yet willing to confront what The Washington Post calls “resistance from veteran Democratic lawmakers” clinging to earmarks.  POLITICO adds that it “remains to be seen” how the White House will “avert a potential standoff with Senate Democrats on the matter.  Now, compare this uncertainty to how White House senior advisor David Axelrod “made it clear” yesterday that the president “has made no commitment to vetoing spending bills that contain earmarks despite calls from fiscal hawks for the president to make that pledge.

To recap:

  • President Obama has yet to call on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) or Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to join Republicans in voting on an earmark ban for the 112th Congress.  (Note that the standard here is not even whether he supports an outright ban, but whether he supports holding simple up-or-down votes to determine whether to impose a ban.)

  • The Obama Administration won’t commit to vetoing any spending measures this year that include earmarks, which the president said just hours ago “we can’t afford during these tough economic times.”
    So: does President Obama really support an earmark ban?  And if so, what has he done to prove that is the case?

    Here’s one thing we do know: earmarks are a symbol of a Congress that has broken faith with the American people.  An earmark moratorium shows elected officials are serious about working to restore trust between the American people and those elected to serve them.  Why is President Obama standing in the way of our ability to move forward and take this critical step towards restoring public trust?  As he
    said earlier this year, “Gridlock as a political strategy is destructive to the country.”