The Corner

Why Sen. Thune Didn’t Withdraw His Earmark Requests

After his caucus passed a voluntary earmark moratorium last month, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) — perhaps with the offing of co-delegate Bob Bennett fresh in his mind — did something both politically smart and substantively commendable: he withdrew each of his earmark requests from the omnibus. Brian Buetler has it:

“I did,” Hatch confirmed to me this afternoon after a Senate vote, “because I decided I voted for the moratorium, and I thought ‘well, I need to do that.’”

[. . .]

“People have the right to do whatever they want,” he said. “I just felt my own personal moral obligation to do that.”

What’s putting senators like Thune, Cornyn, and even Republican Leader McConnell in such a tough position on the omnibus is not just that they requested earmarks, but that every earmark in the bill went through the regular committee order. There simply are no surprises in that part of the omnibus, and in many cases senators had months to register protest. Senator Hatch did just that. Why didn’t others?

Thune tells Beutler, simply, that “I guess I hadn’t thought about doing it.” Thune’s office elaborates for me, saying the senator didn’t withdraw his requests (which were made months before the moratorium vote) because he didn’t think the Democrats would have the “audacity” to move on an omnibus in the lame duck. But Thune now says that he will vote to strip out all the earmarks — his included — from the omnibus if given the chance.

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