‘Pork: Eat it, Don’t Spend it’ Says McCaskill, Unveiling Bipartisan Plan to Permanently Ban Earmarks Over BBQ

“Pork: Eat it, Don’t Spend it” was the theme of a bipartisan barbeque pork lunch hosted today by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, to discuss the introduction of their bill to make permanent the temporary moratorium on congressional earmarks that McCaskill helped put into place in 2010. At the lunch, which featured Arthur Bryant’s original Kansas City barbeque sauce and special guest former Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the Senators focused on recent hearings in the House of Representatives to explore lifting Congress’ self-imposed, temporary ban on the practice of earmarking. McCaskill and Flake’s Earmark Elimination Act would permanently ban the practice. “Earmarks are the Washington swamp creature that just never seems to die—emerging from the lower depths every few years in an effort to waste taxpayer dollars on politicians’ pet projects,” said McCaskill, who has never requested an earmark and has been the leading Democratic voice opposing them. “Our bipartisan bill would ban their return by permanently ending the practice of pork-barrel patronage so we can ensure Missourians’ taxpayer dollars are protected, and projects are prioritized on merit.” “It’s time to stick a fork in congressional pork with a permanent ban on earmarking,” said Flake. “Republicans were beaten like a borrowed mule in the 2006 elections largely because of the corruption associated with earmarks. Let’s not test the voters again by leaving the door open for a return to the pork barrel politics that sent members of Congress to prison and saddled taxpayers with a bridge to nowhere, a teapot museum, and countless other wasteful pet projects.” For years, the earmarking process was notorious for its secrecy and lack of oversight or accountability, with funding for politicians' pet projects often awarded based on political influence instead of on merit. McCaskill’s legislation would expand the ongoing temporary moratorium on earmarks to a permanent ban. Specifically, the legislation would ban all earmarks, and define earmarks as any congressionally directed spending item, limited tax benefit, or limited tariff benefit. McCaskill, the Senate’s leading Democratic opponent of earmarking, has led the fight to permanently ban earmarks from the legislative process. In 2010, McCaskill worked with bipartisan colleagues to put in place the current moratorium on earmarks. Additionally, a provision included in a recent highway bill, based on legislation McCaskill introduced with Senator Flake, is allowing Missouri to claw back more than $72 million in previously unspent earmarked funds that would never have otherwise been used—giving the state the resources to spend on critically needed transportation and infrastructure projects within a 50-mile radius of the project site of the original earmark.