OUROPINION Let the ban on earmarks begin

We’re on board with the effort among Republicans in Congress to place a two-year moratorium on earmarks in the federal budget.

Earmarking is the legislative equivalent of horse-trading to divert federal money to pet projects.

Earmarks have been used to finance infrastructure projects, military bases, economic development, grants to educational institutions and other initiatives. They also have taken the form of tax breaks for specific businesses or organizations.

Earmarking not only is poor public policy, it is inefficient deal-making. With a Congress including 100 senators and 435 representatives, gaining an earmark for a home district requires numerous promises to support earmarks elsewhere.

The process has survived — indeed, thrived — for two reasons.

First, everybody does it — Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

Second, bringing home the proverbial bacon aids popularity and abets re-election.

The GOP’s proposed moratorium turned a corner earlier this week when Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell — a former defender of earmarks — announced he would support the ban.

U.S. Rep. and Sen.-elect Roy Blunt of Missouri also will abide by the earmark moratorium, according to Burson Taylor Snyder, Blunt’s deputy chief of staff.

In a Tuesday news release, Blunt is quoted saying: “But earmark reform is meaningless unless it is coupled with the discipline to stop the spending.” Blunt goes on to outline his plan to “reduce the federal budget by the amount equivalent to that spent on earmarks.”

Blunt’s plan was not well-received by the St. Louis Tea Party, one of the largest tea party groups in Missouri.

The group decried Blunt’s unwillingness to support a ban on earmarks, complained that calls to his office have not been returned and issued a statement that said “this blatant silence speaks to the constituents: ‘I lied. I got your vote. I will do what I want.’”

We’re puzzled by the disconnect between Blunt’s stand on earmarks and the Tea Party’s interpretation of it.

We believe the two-year moratorium on earmarks embraced by Republicans — including Blunt — is necessary and will demonstrate the wisdom of invoking a permanent ban.

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