How Republicans skirting a spending rule could speed up a shutdown

A group of Senate Republicans torched the package of spending bills that would extend funding for the federal government over billions of dollars in earmarks. 

House Republicans put more than $4.5 billion worth of small grants for programs and projects in congressional districts in the appropriations bills introduced this week, but it will be up to the Senate to support the six appropriations bills. 

Some earmarks in the package include $3.5 million pushed by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D–MI) for Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade, $2.7 million secured by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) for a bike park in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and $1 million in funding for an environmental justice center in New York City. 

Senate Republicans have a nonbinding rule banning earmarks, meaning they are ostensibly opposed to them, but they are allowed to make requests.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) led a resolution to reinstate the 10-year earmark moratorium that fell in Congress in 2021, in opposition to Senate Republicans who have pushed for millions of dollars worth of earmarks in the bills. 

Scott requested a vote on an amendment to remove earmarks totaling over 6,000, with a cost of more than $12 billion.

“Earmarks are Washington’s corrupt way to recklessly spend taxpayer money with zero scrutiny and must be stopped,” Scott said. “While the federal government’s debt nears $35 trillion and inflation has skyrocketed 18% under Joe Biden, the minibus spending bill has more than 6,600 projects that will cost taxpayers $12 BILLION.”

Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Rick Braun (R-IN), Steve Daines (R-MT), and conservative organizations such as Heritage Action supported Scott’s resolution condemning earmarks. 

“Earmarks represent the worst of Congress, slimy backroom deals that make lobbyists rich on the taxpayer’s dime,” Daines said. “Washington must reject these toxic deals and return to fiscal sanity.”

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But Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and dozens of other GOP senators have asked for billions of dollars in earmarks, according to the Hill. On Monday, Thune announced his bid to succeed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is stepping down from leadership in November as the longest-serving Senate party leader in history. 

Thune, who is competing with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) for McConnell’s post, could isolate a group of conservatives by pushing the bills through without amending the earmarks. The six appropriations bills fund the government until Sept. 30 and need to be passed by Friday to avoid a partial government shutdown.

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