Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reiterated his commitment to earmark spending Thursday, calling Republicans “hypocrites” for trying to stop an omnibus spending bill full of GOP-requested pork from reaching the Senate floor.
“We have a constitutional duty to do congressionally directed spending and I don’t want to give up that responsibility,” Reid told reporters. “I can’t understand why some of our more conservative members here want to give up their power. I don’t understand that.”
The Senate Appropriation Committee unveiled a $1.2 trillion budget package earlier this week that Reid said he wants passed before the end of the year. Both parties have spent months loading the bill with provisions that would send about $8.3 billion to pay for pet projects in their districts.
House and Senate Republicans agreed to a party-wide temporary moratorium on earmark spending after the elections, but so far no Republican has requested to have his or her own personal requests removed from the bill. For now, Republicans say voting against the bill would suffice.
Reid had a name for people like that: “hypocrites.”
“You can’t have it both ways,” Reid sad. “You can all look it up in the dictionary yourself, but I bet if you went to ‘H’ in the dictionary and found ‘hypocrite,’ under that would be people who asked for earmarks but vote against them.”
Reid, who has always defended earmarks, said he would fight to keep earmark spending a mainstay of the congressional process regardless of who was in the White House.
“I do not want to give up more power to the White House. Whether it’s George Bush or Barack Obama, and I’m going to fight as hard as I can to fight against President Obama on these earmarks and my Republican colleagues who hate to vote for them but love to get them, ” he said. “”We have a constitutional duty to do congressionally directed spending and I don’t want to give up that responsibility. I can’t understand why some of our more conservative members here want to give up their power. I don’t understand that.”
Congress must come to an agreement about how to fund the government by Saturday — whether through the omnibus bill or a temporary stopgap measure — or face a government shutdown. South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has threatened that he will order the nearly 2,000-page omnibus bill to be read aloud on the Senate floor to help “run out the clock” on the Senate schedule.
Reid said that if Republicans want to extend the lame duck session, he’ll keep them there as long as it takes, even if that means working over the holidays.
“We are in session, if necessary, up to January 5th,” he said. “I hope that’s not necessary but that’s the clock that my Republican colleagues have to run out. It’s a long clock.”