McConnell Backs Down On Opposition To Earmark Ban

Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell has been one of the most strident opponents of efforts to ban earmarking among his Senate GOP colleagues. However, he also knows which way the wind blows, which is probably the main reason he came to the floor of the Senate today to announce that he’d changed his mind:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Monday that he will join a GOP effort to ban congressional earmarks.

McConnell, one of the Senate’s biggest proponents of earmarks, said Monday he had come to the conclusion that he had to lead by example in agreeing to the ban.

In a floor speech, McConnell said: “There is simply no doubt that the abuse of this practice has caused Americans to view it as a symbol of the waste and out-of-control spending that every Republican in Washington is determined to fight.

“And unless people like me show the American people that we’re willing to follow through on small or even symbolic things, we risk losing them on our broader efforts to cut spending and rein in government,” McConnell said.

“That’s why today I am announcing that I will join the Republican Leadership in the House in support of a moratorium on earmarks in the 112th Congress,” the leader concluded.

McConnell’s support for a ban probably means that most Republican opposition that had gathered around him will fall away as well. Oklahoma’s James Inhofe remains opposed to the ban, and took the floor of the Senate this afternoon to explain why, but he seems to be increasingly alone. I remain doubtful that the earmark ban will amount to much of anything, but if McConnnell’s change of heart means that the pressure from the fiscal conservatives in the grassroots will cause Republicans in Washington actually live up to their words, then maybe it will actually accomplish something.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. TG Chicago says:

    It’s worth noting that he referred to it as “a moratorium on earmarks in the 112th Congress”. In other words, it’s not a “ban”, it’s more like a one-year hiatus.

  2. Boyd says:

    But Doug, it’s just a meaningless symbol! Right? Right?

  3. In the long run, yes it is just a meaningless symbol unless the follow up by actually cutting spending