Only hours before McConnell changed his stance and decided to support DeMint's earmark ban, another old guard Republican, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, took to the Senate floor to tout a bill he has introduced that would implement the recommendations outlined last fall by a group of government watchdogs. Inhofe's bill would establish a public database of earmarks and ban campaign contributions from earmark recipients. But that idea hasn't received the groundswell of support from the GOP that DeMint's proposal has.
It did, however, win the praise of one of those government watchdogs that was behind the initial recommendations – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
"CREW has long advocated that if the practice of earmarking continues, there must be real transparency and accountability in the process," CREW said in a blog post on their website. "Over the years, neither party's efforts at reforming the earmarking process has been completely successful. In this light, CREW applauds Sen. Inhofe for embracing a commonsense approach to end the abuse of earmarking."
"No matter how small a percentage of the budget, many Americans see earmarks as a symbol of self-serving politicians and believe their hard-earned tax dollars are being frittered away on wasteful projects," the statement said. "True or not, passing this legislation would help restore Americans' diminished confidence in Congress."
While one can question whether the GOP's self-imposed earmark ban will make a real difference or not, no one can question the party's attempt to take a stand on the pet projects. Democrats, though, are a different story.
Only two Senate Democrats – Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO, and Sen. Mark Udall, D-CO – support a moratorium. McCaskill has pledged to partner with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn to push for a full Senate vote on the ban.
"I think a lot of this is about getting people on record," McCaskill told reporters on Tuesday. "Some of it is just getting people to have to vote on it."
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has shown no signs of pushing the Democrats to follow the GOP's lead.
"I believe, personally, we have a constitutional obligation, a responsibility, to do congressionally directed spending," Reid said on Tuesday. "I do not feel comfortable turning that over to the people downtown."
Reid said an earmark moratorium would not be reform.
McCaskill acknowledged that Democrats were unlikely to adopt the Republicans' moratorium.
"I don't think we'd be successful," she said. "There hasn't been a huge appetite yet on our side of the aisle to stop this process."
"They [Democrats] feel very strongly about having the prerogative of making funding decisions on an individual basis," she said. "It's a lot of power. And I think people are reluctant to give up the power to make a solitary, stand-alone decision on where federal money is going to be spent."