This vote was on killing an amendment by Jim DeMint, R-S.C., that would have created a new Senate rule making it easier to defeat legislation that contains money for local projects requested by a member of Congress (known as an “earmark”). The amendment was offered to a bill that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration and enact several new programs, including stricter pilot training recordkeeping standards and penalties for airlines that keep passengers idling on the tarmac too long.
DeMint immediately sought to blunt the usual criticism of legislation that seeks to curb the practice of earmarking, which takes the form of appeals to Congress’ constitutional authority to spend money.
“Clearly, if it is a constitutional responsibility for all of us to be here to get money for our States, somehow for the first 200 years of our country that was missed because even a few years ago Ronald Reagan would veto a bill with less than a couple hundred earmarks in it because of all the pork and waste. But now we are in the thousands and tens of thousands. It is out of control. The waste and the fraud and the abuse is so obvious that it is time we see it in the Senate,” DeMint said.
Democrats and Republicans alike were dissatisfied with DeMint’s amendment. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said DeMint’s amendment is a “feel good” amendment that accomplishes nothing.
“I think his proposal to impose a virtual moratorium on congressionally directed spending is not in the public’s interest,” Cochran said. “Earmarking has nothing to do with how much the Federal Government spends, but it has everything to do with who decides how the Federal Government spends. We subject the entire process to careful scrutiny. The Senate as a whole is involved as they want to be in negotiations with the other body, letting us know what their views are, and what we should argue for during conferences with the House. In disagreements with the administration, the Congress really has the power for the final say-so.”
John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., then made a motion that DeMint’s amendment be killed, which is what this vote was on.
By a vote of 68-29, the amendment was killed. All but four Democrats presented voted to kill the amendment. Of Republicans present, 15 voted to kill the amendment and 25 voted against. The end result is that a bill that would reauthorize federal aviation programs went forward without language that would have imposed a moratorium on earmarked spending in any bill.