STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, Senator McCaskill, you are an unequivocal opponent of earmarks. You've asked for zero earmarks. You voted to strip them out, yet you're supporting this bill. I don't quite understand that.
MCCASKILL: Well, I have done everything I can possibly do to reject the process of funding -- funding projects through earmarks. I vote against earmarks when I get the chance, as long as we're voting against all of them, and I've dropped another bill to reform the process even further this week.
But I don't think I can sit on the sidelines on every budget, though, because I've got to tell you, George, you talk about a habit that's deeply ingrained and a culture that's very hard to get rid of, these guys love these earmarks. They love the ability to have the power, you know, to pick out projects to fund.
And, you know, some of the earmarked projects are great, but the process, I think, is fundamentally flawed. That's why Evan and I were the only two Democrats that voted to strip every single one of them out. And as long as we have a chance to keep reforming it, I think we need to keep moving forward and get the government funded. BAYH: And just one distinction from what Richard said. The TARP vote was about stabilizing the financial system at a moment of crisis last September or October, when the economy, according to the chairman of the Fed, was about to collapse. And hopefully we're going to get most of that money paid back.
The stimulus bill, the job-creating bill, that was focused or was supposed to be focused like a laser on stabilizing the economy at a time when you pointed out in the headlines, it is in terrible straits. This is just general government spending, and it's increasing many times the rate of inflation.
What are we, as members of Congress, going to do to sacrifice, to show the American people that, in the long run, there is some fiscal discipline around this town if we can't keep restraints into place for just one year? What does that say to the marketplace?
So I think this is an important part of re-instilling confidence and, frankly, helping the president, who wants to get the deficit down and wants to remove these earmarks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Shelby, you have more earmarks in that bill than just about 40 other senators. Can you defend the process?
SHELBY: Absolutely. I can defend every earmark. Every one of my earmarks have been released to the press. Every one has -- has, I think, been vetted in the committee and publicly in my state.
I don't want an earmark that has no merit, but I do believe that we ought to have the power to appropriate things with merit. And that's what I -- that's one of the reasons I'm voting for this bill.
MCCASKILL: Yes, I think it's important to point out that a lot of the senators that stood up with righteous indignation on the stimulus bill, talking about earmarks in the bill and earmarks in the bill, are back two weeks later for a huge chunk of earmarks.
And this is an equal-opportunity sin, George, as you pointed out. The -- every single member of Republican leadership is participating fully in the earmark process.
So what I hope people quit doing is using earmarks as a partisan fight, because it is not partisan. It's about...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Although Senator Shelby is consistent, to be fair. He's consistent that he's for earmarks and he's for the bill.
MCCASKILL: He is. He is. He is. He's a loyal appropriator.