Challenging Every Earmark

Senator Coburn, now with John McCain in partnership, are going to challenge every single earmark in the Senate:

In short, Senators McCain and Coburn announced their
commitment to challenge each and every earmark on the floor of the
Senate. In addition to challenging each and every pork project,
Senators Coburn and McCain will also oppose the inclusion in conference
reports of any earmarks that did not pass either the House or Senate.

As
stated in the letter, the practice of inserting earmarks into
conference reports at the last minute "stifles debate and empowers
well-heeled lobbyists at the expense of those who cannot afford access
to power. Decisions about how taxpayer dollars are spent should not be
made in the dark, behind closed doors."

Good.  And with McCain's backing, it may work.  I say this because, for a variety of reasons, McCain has somehow become the "instant moral authority" of the Senate, bringing instant legitimacy and media attention to any issue he jumps on.  I am not sure, for example, that the egregious Campaign Finance Reform Act would have passed without his imprimatur.

Apparently, the defense de jour by pork-loving Senators is to make the claim that "well, earmarks are trivial compared to non-discretionary spending so let's focus on those larger buckets of cost." 

A couple of thoughts.  First, if the Senate can't control spending on bridges serving 50 people, they are never going to do it on Social Security.  Second, this is very disingenuous, since Congress has had years to address these other issues, and all they have done is increase (via the disastrous drug benefit) the costs of these programmed expenses rather than reduce them.  They gave up mid-stream, for example, on doing anything with Social Security.  Third, now is the time to strike while public attention is focused on these practices.  In particular, the current lobbying scandals put special focus on earmarking, since discretionary spending is order of magnitudes more susceptible to political corruption than are the programmed expenses.