Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

U.S. Sen.-elect Marco Rubio joins earmark ban effort

WASHINGTON — Marco Rubio will not be sworn in as Florida's new U.S. senator until January, but he has already landed in an intensifying fight over political pork.

Rubio this week signed onto an effort by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to seek a ban on budget earmarks among Republicans in the chamber. The new House GOP leaders have already instituted a moratorium.

"I think earmarks are bad for our country," Rubio said in an interview before Election Day.

But DeMint's budding coalition of lawmakers (14 as of Wednesday) is meeting resistance from veteran Republicans who defend the process as a responsibility of office and accuse critics of playing politics.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said Tuesday he would challenge DeMint when the Senate reconvenes next week and call him out as an earmarker back when the practice was not unpopular.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, meanwhile, was quietly working against the proposed ban. He argues Congress should not turn over spending decisions to the executive branch.

"Every president, Republican or Democrat, would like to have a blank check from Congress to do whatever he chooses to do," McConnell said in a speech last week. "You could eliminate every congressional earmark and you would save no money. It's really an argument about discretion."

The budget for fiscal year 2010 included 9,499 earmarks worth $15.9 billion — about one-half of 1 percent of the $3.5 trillion 2010 federal budget. Still, they have become controversial symbols in recent years with scandals over lobbyists and lawmakers seeking favors for political donors.

The issue played prominently in the election this month.

House GOP leaders, now in the majority, quickly called for a moratorium on earmarks (both parties have some current restrictions) but there has been less fervor in the Senate.

However, most of the new Republican senators, Rubio included, swore them off on the campaign trail. (Rubio took heat from rival Gov. Charlie Crist for seeking millions in funding for special projects while he was speaker of the House.)

In a state like Florida, earmarks have helped fund veterans hospitals, roads, bridges and other projects, even as some have gone more controversially to defense contractors. Rubio could be under pressure to get his share.

He said he'll refuse to seek them regardless of whether the Senate GOP institutes a formal ban.

"I think there should be a regular funding formula where everything is transparent," he said in Pasco County on Oct. 30. "Not where you use your seniority to take money for your state at the disadvantage of the whole country. There are plenty of very successful legislators up there that don't do earmarks."

U.S. Sen.-elect Marco Rubio joins earmark ban effort 11/10/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 11, 2010 4:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Amy Foster is running for reelection to St. Pete City Council


    Four weeks remain before the qualifying period ends for St. Petersburg’s mayoral and City Council races, but one question has been formally answered.

    Amy Foster is running for reelection.

    Amy Foster is officially running for reelection
  2. Departing fifth graders at Booker T. Washington Elementary leave lessons for their peers


    TAMPA — Teaching kindergarteners how to make slime seems like a good idea — when you're 12.

    From left, Tayvon Scott, 6, Arion Taylor, 9, and Nazir Anderson, 6, play with globs of slime they created from a science experiment taught by the Darius Troupe, a fifth-grader at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Tampa. Students at Booker T. Washington Elementary School spent a "Day of Service" teaching their peers in a class exercise on May 24, 2017. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. Tampa is 15th-most popular city to move to with U-Haul


    TAMPA —Tampa is undoubtedly a destination point, at least according to U-Haul.

    Tampa is the No. 15 destination for people moving with U-Haul trucks. | Times file photo
  4. Bucs WR DeSean Jackson knows only one direction: full speed ahead


    TAMPA — DeSean Jackson is the "1."

    Actually, Jackson, the Bucs' latest weapon for quarterback Jameis Winston, with his blazing speed and game-changing splash plays, wears No. 11 in games.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  5. Karen Bail, who helped Gibbs kids get to Broadway, retires


    ST. PETERSBURG — When neatnicks retire, they leave no trace behind. Their desks are clean, like a runway after the plane has taken off.

    Retiring musical theatre teacher Karen Bail warms up seniors Jonathan O'Brien, left, as Juan Peron and Addam Setzer as Che Guevara before the dress rehearsal of Pinellas County Center for the Arts (PCCA) magnet program's production of "Evita" at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, FL,  April 24, 2017.  The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical ran for three days in April at the school and was PCCA's last play of the year. CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times