The Washington Times - January 24, 2013, 03:00PM

A pair of senators are renewing their fight to permanently ban earmarks, citing fears their colleagues are clamoring to set aside funds for pet projects despite a two-year moratorium on the practice.

Sens. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, and Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, said earmarks serve as an entry point to bloated spending and tend to soak up funds that Congress normally delivers to local decision-makers in the states.

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“It is a gateway drug, and I fear a relapse,” Ms. McCaskill told reporters on Thursday.

Earmarks, by their nature, circumvent proper scrutiny by ducking competition for scarce resources in the legislative process, Mr. Toomey said.

The senators said their Earmark Elimination Act will have a better chance at passage through the amendment process, rather than as a stand-alone bill.

Ms. McCaskill said she has floated the proposed ban among her Democratic colleagues, but the reception was not exactly “warm and fuzzy.”

“I think it’s time for the public to be put on notice that [lifting the ban] is being talked about,” she said, “and I think this is a great time for our colleagues to step up and make this ban a permanent one, so that we are not worried about this practice becoming the norm again.”

She also criticized those who suggest earmarks will grease the wheels of a deadlocked Congress.

“Really?” she said. “I mean, that’s an embarrassing admission, that there might be members who are only willing to vote for something as meritorious if you give them something in return. I don’t think that should be the hallmark of how we spend money around here.”