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He told Americans in a weekly address that “we can’t afford” earmarks amid staggering deficits, and even put out a statement in response to Mr. McConnell’s reversal in a bid to stay out front on the issue.

The real test, however, will come if and when Congress sends Mr. Obama another pork-laden bill. That may not happen until next year, as Mr. McConnell has vowed to block consideration of an omnibus spending bill during the so-called “lame duck” session of Congress.

Asked last week by a reporter whether the president would use his veto pen to enforce his views on earmarks, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs ducked the question, saying the administration would have to “evaluate a piece of legislation for what is and is not” in the bill.

Mr. Flake, who thought Mr. Obama “would take a firmer stand initially,” said it would be a mistake for the president to sign another omnibus riddled with pet projects.

“I think people would say that’s just more of the same,” said Mr. Flake, who described the fight over pork as “a new ball game” come January, when the new Congress is sworn in.