The Pork Man Cometh
The Republicans have declared war on earmarks and government spending as a signature issue for their newly empowered ranks in Congress. But it's becoming increasingly clear that not everyone is on board. On Thursday, the Senate GOP announced that six freshmen Republicans would be appointed to the Senate Appropriations Committee—including Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the former House member whose love for earmarks has led critics to dub him "the Pork-Meister."
Despite criticism from his own Republican colleagues, Blunt has unapologetically embraced earmarks and shot down attempts to curb them. In fiscal year 2010, for example, Blunt personally requested some $153 million in earmarks, and he steadfastly opposed the Senate Republicans' attempt to prohibit earmarks in November. During his run for Senate, his reputation for larding up bills led his Democratic opponent, Robin Carnahan, to cast him as a "prodigious pork-meister" that cost taxpayers "$20 billion a year," contradicting his own calls for fiscal austerity.
The attacks didn't ultimately stick with voters, but that didn't stop the Wall Street Journal from dubbing the Missouri Republican "Senator Earmark" shortly after he was elected. Blunt hasn't let up on his defense of pork since he's taken office, either. After this week's State of the Union address, Blunt slammed Obama's vow to veto any bill with earmarks as a "power grab" that would "give the president too much power," arguing that the Constitution gave Congress the expiclit authority to dictate how spending would be apportioned. Blunt's pork-loving ways have drawn fire from the GOP's tea party right, who've already been infuriated with his House vote to support the Troubled Asset Relief Program, among other government spending bills.
Other Senate GOP newcomers—including Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—have gone squishy on earmarks as well. But Blunt's exceptionally staunch defense of earmarks could prove to be one of the biggest thorns in the GOP's side when it comes to the party's war on pork.