Sen. Inhofe: Proposed Earmark Ban "Trashes The Constitution"

November 12, 2010 3:38 pm ET — Walid Zafar

James Inhofe

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) isn't keen on his party's demonization of earmarks.  In an op-ed in Politico today, Inhofe writes that a proposed moratorium on congressional earmarks "trashes the Constitution and violates our oath of office."  In yet another editorial in National Review, he points out that earmarks account for a small slice of all discretionary spending.  "Talk about specks versus planks," he writes.

Demagoguing earmarks provides cover for some of the biggest spenders in Congress. Congressional earmarks, for all their infamous notoriety, are not the cause of trillion-dollar federal deficits (of all the discretionary spending that took place in Washington last year, earmarks made up only 1.5 percent). Nor will an earmark moratorium solve the crisis of wasteful Washington spending run amuck. While anti-earmarkers bloviate about the billions spent through earmarks, many of them supported the trillions of dollars in extra spending for bailouts, stimulus, and foreign aid. Talk about specks versus planks!

Meanwhile, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one of the few principled fiscal conservatives in Congress, objects to Inhofe's reasoning in an op-ed in the Washington Post:

Congress has always had, and will retain, the ability to direct the administration to spend money on specific items, such as missile defense. It does so by authorizing specific programs and providing funding that can be used only for those programs. What I am talking about, and what its practitioners are seeking to defend, is the contemporary practice of earmarking, which typically involves individual members of Congress identifying specific projects for which they obtain exclusive funding.

The Cato Institute's Jim Harper sides with Flake and adds, "Earmarks should go, and Congress should withdraw spending discretion from the executive branch while it reduces spending overall." 

Regardless of who is right or wrong, or whose side ultimately prevails, it's becoming abundantly clear the gap between the Republican old guard and the anti-government forces is starting to widen.