Today in Washington - November 30, 2010

They just don’t get it here in Washington, DC.  The Senate voted today for business as usual — against an amendment by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to ban earmarking by Senators.  The vote was conducted under a suspension of the Senate’s rules, yet it garnered only 39 votes in favor of an earmark ban for the whole Senate.  They love pork on Capitol Hill. 

The Senate has already conducted three votes today on the food safety bill and the bill ended up passing by a vote of 73-25.  Now that the Senate has dispensed with the food safety bill, the Senate needs to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government into mid to late December.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has a few issues that he may attempt to bring up as motions to reconsider cloture votes to fill time until the Senate receives a CR from the House.  The House has 22 suspension votes scheduled for today and work on the controversial Claims Resolution Act of 2010, HR 4783

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has a piece today at Big Government arguing that the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 needs more study before it is sent to the President for his signature.  

I urge my colleagues to consider what the Claims Settlement Act truly presents before voting on the bill this week. This legislation includes over a billion dollars to settle the Pigford II discrimination claims with black farmers. Unfortunately, Pigford is rife with fraudulent claims and to settle before an investigation can take place does the American taxpayer a disservice. Justice should be served to those who experienced discrimination, but settlement funds should only go to those wronged.

The Senate beat down an effort to ban earmarking for the whole Senate.  This follows the Senate and House Republican conferences voting to swear off earmarking for 2011 and 2012 earlier this month.  The 39-56 voteto defeat the Coburn-McCaskill Amendment on the food safety bill under a suspension of the rules shows the current state of play on earmark reform in the Senate.  Five Senators missed the vote including Bond (R-MO), Boxer (D-CA), Brownback (R-KS), Mikulski (D-MD) and Shaheen (D-NH). 

Republicans voting against an earmark ban for the full Senate and voting against Senator Coburn were the following: 

  1. Robert Bennett (R-UT);
  2. Thad Cochran (R-MS);
  3. Susan Collins (R-ME);
  4. Jim Inhofe (R-OK);
  5. Richard Lugar (R-IN);
  6. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK);
  7. Richard Shelby (R-AL); and,
  8. George Voinovich (R-OH). 

Democrats voting for the Senate-wide ban on earmarking  were the following: 

  1. Evan Bayh (D-IN);
  2. Michael Bennet (D-CO);
  3. Russ Feingold (D-WI); 
  4. Claire McCaskill (D-MO);
  5. Bill Nelson (D-FL);
  6. Mark Udall (D-CO); and,
  7. Mark Warner (D-VA).

This vote shows that the Senate as a whole is not yet close to banning earmarks.  Expect this fight to continue into next year.