- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Senate voted unanimously yesterday to adopt a Republican-backed measure to limit pork-barrel spending despite initial opposition by Democratic leaders.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, changed course and embraced the bill last week after delaying a final vote when the proposal unexpectedly survived a procedural vote to kill it.

Mr. Reid praised the amendment, which was tweaked by Democratic leaders, for requiring “full and timely disclosure” of earmarks, which are spending projects and tax breaks buried in complex legislation.

“We have combined the best ideas from both sides of the aisle to establish the strongest possible disclosure rules,” Mr. Reid said. “Once we are done, the Senate earmark rules will be even stronger than the recently adopted House rules.”

The Senate voted 98-0 to adopt the measure as an amendment to ethics legislation.

The amendment would mandate public disclosure of all earmarks for federal projects and require members of Congress seeking earmarks to provide written information — which also must be made available on an Internet database — 48 hours before the legislation is considered.

Sen. Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who introduced the original amendment, commended the Democratic leadership for working in a bipartisan fashion.

“This is a very important first step in earmark reform, and it is a victory for American taxpayers,” he said. “The outcome we achieved on earmark disclosure demonstrates that we can work together to achieve meaningful results, and I hope we can continue this progress by considering several important reform amendments that are currently pending.”

Mr. DeMint’s amendment was approved narrowly in a 51-48 procedural vote Thursday. Mr. Reid delayed a final vote on the amendment, which is similar to ethics rules adopted with fanfare as one of the first acts of the Democrat-led House.

All but two of eight freshmen Democrats voted Thursday to kill the DeMint amendment. Sens. James H. Webb Jr. of Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana supported the measure and helped keep it alive.

Mr. Tester said that opposing Washington corruption was a top campaign pledge, and he applauded his colleagues for backing the amendment. “They are doing the right thing,” he said.

Some freshmen Democrats who switched their votes — Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland — said they had been holding out for a stronger reform package.

“There was stronger language being negotiated,” Brown spokeswoman Joanna Kuebler said. “Senator Brown is very much in favor of taking a prudent look at how [pork projects] are handed out.”

McCaskill spokeswoman Adrianne Marsh said that supporting the DeMint amendment would have precluded stronger action in the future.

“The overall goal is to continue the discussion and come up with the hardest bill in the end,” she said. “By passing [the DeMint amendment], it might have limited that discussion.”

Mr. DeMint’s staff said Democrats did not begin negotiating earmark reform until Mr. Reid delayed the final vote on the Republican amendment. “There was no effort to modify the amendment until after the whole shenanigans on the floor,”DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said.

The other freshmen Democrats who originally opposed the measure were Sens. Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

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