Jan. 26, 2011 -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told ABC News that earmarks will return to Capitol Hill despite President Obama's vow in last night's State of the Union to veto any spending bill that includes them.
In an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl, Reid launched a vigorous defense of pork, the pet projects that members of Congress insert into bills to benefit their home states.
"I think it's taking power away from the legislative branch of government and giving it to the executive branch of government," Reid said of the president's plan. "The executive branch of government is powerful enough and I think that I know more about what Nevada needs than some bureaucrat down on K Street."
"So you think the president is wrong about this?" Karl asked.
"Without any question," Reid replied.
"I understand it's great for an applause line, but it's really not solving anything to do with the deficit. It's only for show."
"So you're saying that earmarks will be back?" said Karl.
"Of course they'll be back," said Reid.
In addition to blasting Obama's anti-earmark plan, the Nevada senator also sounded less than impressed with the president's proposed five-year spending freeze on discretionary spending.
"I'm not enthusiastic about it because it's not broad enough," Reid said. "We have to make sure that defense is included in that because certainly defense spending is getting bigger and bigger and bigger."
Reid also said the Senate will hold a vote on the House-passed health care repeal if the top Republican, Sen. Mitch McConnell, demands one. Reid said he would not bring the repeal to a vote, but acknowledged that the Senate GOP could use procedural means to force one.
"I'm certainly not going to bring it up, but we have procedures in the Senate where if somebody, if they wanted to try to increase costs for seniors, if they wanted to take away the ability to have a pre-existing disability…" Reid said.
"So if Mitch McConnell presses the issue there will be a vote in the Senate on repealing health care reform?" Karl asked.
Majority Leader Harry Reid: Senate May Vote on Health Care Repeal
"That is up to Mitch McConnell if he wants to take the grief…"
"It sounds like he does…"
"Well that's what this is all about," Reid said. "The president indicated it very well last night – the health care bill that we passed is an effort to make sure that the millions of people who are uninsured have the same health insurance that I have. And it's also to make sure that people who are senior citizens can go to the doctor when they're sick, can have a wellness check that doesn't cost them anything, we fill that donut hole, we allow millions of small businesses to get a tax deduction for health insurance for their employees. That's what it's all about."
Reid said that health care repeal would increase the deficit by $238 billion, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
On Tuesday McConnell kicked off the legislative process of bringing the repeal to the Senate floor for a vote. The Kentucky Republican has steadfastly said that the repeal, passed by the House earlier this month, will come to a full Senate vote, even if it is extremely unlikely to pass given the Democrats' 53-to-47 majority in the upper chamber.
Reid's criticism today was not only reserved for the president and McConnell, but also for Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who delivered the GOP response to the State of the Union.
In recent days Senate Democrats have tried to paint Ryan as a villain who wants to destroy Social Security and Medicare.
"I don't know what his plan is this week," Reid said. "You know, they continue to change it over there."
Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, has unveiled "a roadmap" that would change Medicare into a voucher program.
"I've got a problem with that," Reid said. "In the nicest way, I have to say he doesn't know what he's talking about. We can't do it in the way that he anticipates. We have to focus on health care for everyone."