Cochran’s fellow Southerner and funding fiend is Richard Shelby (R-AL), the likely number three Republican appropriator in the next Congress. In July, Politico reported that over the past two years Shelby has gotten more than $250 million in earmarks for entities that hired his former staff as lobbyists. Last month, he joined with Cochran in voting against the earmark moratorium even though McConnell had endorsed the proposal.
Another returning appropriator who also voted “no” on the moratorium is Republican-but-about-to-be-Independent Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who characterized it as a mere “shell game” while promising to fight for Alaska’s “fair share” of federal spending. In appropriations-speak, “fair share” translates into “I’m grabbing every dollar I can get.”
The Cochran-Shelby-Murkowski triad gives McConnell a compelling reason to rebalance his side of the Appropriations Committee with Republicans who are unafraid to push back when their colleagues start gorging at the federal trough.
Shortly after the November election, McConnell said “the people are watching” to see if Republicans would live up to their commitment to cut spending. Just because Reid’s spending bill went down in flames last week is no reason for “we the people” to change the channel. We must stay attentive to see if McConnell means what he says — or is he a “yes, but” Republican who agrees with fiscal conservative principles in theory, but not in practice? We’ll know the answer very soon.
Joanne Butler is a senior economics fellow at the Caesar Rodney Institute of Delaware. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.