While much ink has been spilled exploring the civil war between far-right tea party conservatives and more moderate Republicans, there appears to be a new rift emerging among the die-hard conservative wing in the Senate. Echoing the demands of the tea party movement, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) proposed yesterday a ban on earmarks in the Senate, and is aggressively whipping his colleagues to support it. While Republican leaders offered strong rhetoric on the campaign trail about opposing earmarks, now that the GOP has successfully taken power, they have been cool to DeMint’s proposal.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) — whom National Journal ranked as the most conservative senator in 2009 — has gone even further, declaring “an all-out war within the Senate GOP conference next week to defeat an earmark moratorium.” Inhofe has said he will take to the Senate floor Monday to deliver a “pretty strong statement” against the ban, and to call out DeMint for supporting earmarks before he was against them. DeMint “was really pro-earmark. … He ran as a pro-earmarker” as a House Member in 2004, Inhofe told Roll Call.
In an interview with conservative radio host Ed Morrissey yesterday, Inhofe said people like DeMint who oppose earmarks are “brainwashed,” adding that if his fellow senators vote to ban earmarks they are voting to “trash the constitution and reject their oath of office”:
INHOFE: They’ve been demagoguing this whole thing on earmarks, but you’ll never convince the American people of it because they are so thoroughly brainwashed. You say earmark, they say, oh, earmarks are bad. But then when they stop and define the earmarks, then they think, that is what the Constitution — that is what James Madison said we are supposed to be doing in the House and the Senate.
So my concern is this…these guys will come in and the first vote they will cast is to trash the Constitution and reject their oath of office. I know that sounds extreme, but I don’t want these guys sitting around worrying about whether or not we will not do our job and whether we will cede our power to the president, or not.
Listen here :
Meanwhile, tea party leaders are furious that conservative favorites like Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) have suggested they will request earmarks. Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, told the Washington Independent’s Jesse Zwick today that the tea party will hold members accountable if they don’t support an earmark ban. “This is a fundamental issue — it’s both substantive and symbolic. … This is a vote that will never go away, like TARP,” she said. In fact, she issued a threat to those who oppose an earmark ban, saying, “in 2012 when they have aggressive, well-funded primary challengers, they’ll know why.” Indeed, her group sent an action alert to members today saying, “Our first battle with the newly empowered GOP” will be over earmarks.