Reid Reiterates Defense of Earmarks in Face of President’s Proposed Ban

By Matt Jaffe

Jan 25, 2011 3:33pm

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today was asked if he might change his stance on pork now that President Obama is going to propose an earmark ban in tonight’s State of the Union.

Reid’s answer was pretty clear: Nope.

“I think this is an issue that any president would like to have, that takes power away from the legislative branch of government and I don’t think that’s helpful. I think it’s a lot of pretty talk and it’s only giving the president more power. He’s got enough power already,” Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill after a Democratic caucus meeting.

Reid’s comments today echo his statement last month when he gave a passionate defense of pork on Dec. 16, hitting out at the President and Republicans alike.

“I am convinced that I do not want to give up more power to the White House, whether it's George Bush or Barack Obama,” Reid said last month. “I'm going to fight as hard as I can against President Obama on these earmarks, and my Republican colleagues who hate to vote for them but love to get them.

“I can’t accept the fact that people are saying, ‘Why should we vote to accept Congressionally-directed spending?’ That’s our job. That’s what we’re supposed to do,” he said.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, today said they are none too impressed with the President’s plan to propose a budget freeze.  

“I would remind you that in the speech last year there was a recommendation for a three-year freeze,” the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell said. “And the problem with that is it freezes in place an extraordinary increase in spending that’s occurred over the last two years. So it strikes most of us that the effort by the House of Representatives to get us back to 2008 spending levels would be the direction to go if we really wanted to have an impact on our annual deficit problem.”

Sen. John Thune, R-SD, also downplayed the President’s budget freeze.

“If you look at the record in the last couple of years, you’ve seen spending increase dramatically – you know, a five-year freeze after a two-year increase of 21 percent at a time when inflation in the overall economy was two percent means the government is growing at 10 times the rate of inflation in the last two years. So that’s probably not going to inspire a lot of people who want to see meaningful efforts to reduce spending and reduce the debt,” Thune said.

“It’s going to be the action that follows from this more than what he says this evening, I think, that really defines whether or not we’re going to make any meaningful progress toward addressing what I think the American people care about the most – and that’s jobs, spending, and debt.”




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