The movement toward a federal moratorium on congressional earmarks, led by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-KY), has caused considerable annoyance among some within the Republican Party. While many have argued that earmarks amount to little more than a fraction of federal outlays, and thus are not a particularly worrisome or defining feature of the bulging federal deficit, their position fails to address the crux of the anti-earmark argument itself. Namely, prohibiting the profligacy of earmarks within Congress represents a principled stand against government waste and surreptitious spending practices.
“Earmarks are a really small percentage of the budget but I think they symbolize a lot of the waste and I think we shouldn’t do it,” Senator-elect Paul declared in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Paul continued, arguing that spending should be addressed in the full light of a committee hearing and not in the dead of night. “I tell people and told people throughout the primaries as well as the general election that I will advocate for Kentucky’s interests. There are money that will be spent in Kentucky. But I will advocate in the committee process.”
Paul’s remarks as an incoming member of the freshman GOP Senate class have emboldened Senator Jim DeMint’s proposal to bring a vote banning earmarks before the GOP conference. Along with Senator-elect Paul, several other incoming members of the freshman GOP Senate class have expressed support for DeMint’s proposition.
“Americans want Congress to shut down the earmark favor factory. Instead of spending time chasing money for pet projects, lawmakers will be able to focus on balancing the budget, reforming the tax code and repealing the costly health care takeover,” DeMint argued in a recent statement.
Although an internal Republican vote to institute a moratorium on earmarks would largely be symbolic, as it would be non-binding, such a statement would establish the dichotomy between a coalition of Republican legislators committed to fiscal discipline and a Democratic-controlled Senate wedded to the politics of big spending and irresponsible governance.
The public often finds symbolic gestures subordinate to policy measures deemed more substantive in nature. Republicans in the Senate, however, should nonetheless realize the importance of symbolism. While actions more often speak louder than words, standing on one’s principles can have an immeasurable effect on laying the groundwork for future legislative action. A firm stand today can lead to substantive change tomorrow.
Scott G. Erickson is an advocate of conservative, principled solutions to the issues facing America. He has worked to advance conservative priorities through coalition building and is an active participant in myriad organizations seeking to restore the foundational principles of America. A committed public servant, he has worked in the field of law enforcement for the past decade and holds both his B.S. and M.S. in Criminal Justice Studies. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. He blogs at scottgerickson.com.