I would like to turn to the section about Rand Paul. Blunt is supposed to be the old-school, earmark-loving successful lawmaker, Paul the pure libertarian type. And yet there is this paragraph:
In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me that they are a bad “symbol” of easy spending but that he will fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork, as long as it’s doled out transparently at the committee level and not parachuted in in the dead of night. “I will advocate for Kentucky’s interests,” he says.
Is he selling out already? I am fully aware that the issue of earmarks is a very symbolic one. Getting rid of earmarks won’t save us from the current debt explosion, nor is it likely to end the spending; it will just leave the decision in the hands of the agencies rather than selected lawmakers. Still, I could imagine that when a legislator submits his earmark request, the appropriations committee, at least sometimes, increases the overall budget for the agency by the amount of the earmark.
[Paul's] comments have since attracted attention and criticism, and his aides now say that I misunderstood his comments. I stand by the story as written, but in the interest of full disclosure we are posting the full transcript of the relevant section of the interview below. Readers can draw their own conclusions.
Question: What if someone comes to you and says here’s an earmark, mind turning a blind eye to this?
Mr. Paul: The 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. 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. And I think that’s the way it should be done. Roads, highways, bridges, things that we need as far as infrastructure, let’s go through the committee process, find out, when was this bridge last repaired? How much of a problem is it? Are there fatalities on this road that’s not wide enough? Let’s use objective evidence to figure out, you know, where the money should be spent. But not put it on in the dead of night, have some clerk in your office stick it on because you’re powerful and you stick it on, and you attach your name to it.
Q: So if Roy Blunt calls you up, tells you, ‘hey, I want to get this bridge built in southern Missouri’?
Mr. Paul: I think we can do it if I’m on the transportation committee, we discuss it and we find out his bridge is more important than the bridge in Louisville, or more important than the bridge in northern Kentucky. I think that’s the way legislating should occur. You work it out, you find out, and then you should say how much money do you have? Right now we just write a blank check and we just say, well, what do you want. I mean, nobody has any concept, they have no restraint. What you need is in the committee process to know that we have X billions in our budget this year, because that’s all the money we have. Instead they just say, ‘What do you want to spend?’ It’s all about what do you want instead of what do you have.