Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 5, 2015

Harry Reid Does Love His Earmarks (Video)

Reid and Durbin are among the staunchest defenders of earmarks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Reid, left, and Durbin are among the staunchest defenders of earmarks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

There aren’t many issues on which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid disagrees with President Barack Obama, but earmarking is one of them.

“I have been a fan of earmarks since I got here the first day,” the Nevada Democrat said Tuesday afternoon.

Reid did not mince words in support of the practice, which grew controversial ahead of recent moratoriums on the practice of writing spending directives into legislation.

“Keep in mind, that’s what the country has done for more than 200 years, except for the brief period of time in recent years that we haven’t done these,” Reid said. “I think it is wrong. I disagree — underline, underscore, big exclamation marks — with Obama on earmarks. He’s wrong.”

Reid has been a prolific earmarker over the years, serving as either chairman or ranking member of the Energy and Water subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, alongside Republican Pete Domenici of New Mexico.

“I just had a conversation with Claire McCaskill. If there needs to be more transparency than what we had, then fine, do it. But it is wrong to have bureaucrats downtown make decisions in Nevada that I can make better than they can make,” Reid said.

McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, has been among the Senate’s chief critics of earmarking.

A group of senators led by Colorado Democrat Mark Udall and Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn is circulating a letter encouraging an existing moratorium remain in place, with Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., announcing in a statement Tuesday that he had signed on.

“Hoosiers sent me to Washington to change the way taxpayer dollars are spent and be a voice for fiscal restraint,” said Coats. “The earmark moratorium was an important first step in addressing the deep financial crisis our nation faces, and it must be maintained.”

Coats is a member of the Appropriations Committee, where he serves as the ranking member on the Homeland Security subcommittee.

But Reid is clearly on the side of his top deputy, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, an ardent defender of the practice.

Reid reaffirmed Tuesday that he planned to give Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and Ranking Member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., four weeks of floor time to try to advance some of the regular spending bills for fiscal 2015.

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