Democratic Leaders Discuss Earmark Ban

Dismissing President Barack Obama’s “opposition to earmarks as ‘an applause line,’ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told NBC News on Wednesday that the president should ‘back off’ and let lawmakers continue to direct spending to their home districts,” First Read reports.

Asked during a one-on-one interview with NBC whether Obama was wrong to promise a veto on any bill that contains earmarks, Reid quickly replied, "of course."

"This is an applause line," Reid said. "It’s an effort by the White House to get more power. They’ve got enough power as it is."

Reid, along with other lawmakers who support earmarking, argues that eliminating the practice simply puts more discretion in the hands of executive branch officials who have authority to fund projects.  "I have a Constitutional obligation to do congressionally directed spending," he said. "I know much more about what should be done in Elkhorn [or] Las Vegas, Nevada, than some bureaucrat does back here."

Reid said voters should recognize that eliminating congressional earmarks does not, in itself, reduce spending but changes how the same money is spent.

Despite this strong disagreement, Reid says “the fight over earmarks will not cause a long-term rift with Obama.”

Meanwhile, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) “on Wednesday said the Senate will not pass spending legislation that contains earmarks, even though he personally opposes banning the practice,” The Hill reports.

The Democrat said that he does not think Obama will have to make good on his threat in the State of the Union to veto any legislation that contains earmarked spending.

“[House Speaker] Boehner is not going to send a bill over with earmarks, and we are out of the business of earmarks,” he said.

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Filed under Earmarks, Party Leadership, SOTU

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