WASHINGTON – The Senate rejected calls from both parties’ presidential candidates to take an election-year break from pork-barrel spending as a Democratic-run Congress passed budget plans that would torpedo hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts won by President Bush.
John McCain, the GOP nominee-to-be, couldn’t attract even a majority of Senate Republicans to vote with him Thursday night behind the earmark moratorium touted by party conservatives as a way to restore the GOP’s credibility with voters.
It failed on a 71-29 vote. Only three Democrats joined with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in voting for it.
The underlying House and Senate Democratic federal budget plans for 2009, though nonbinding, drew blasts from Republicans for allowing some or all of Bush’s tax cuts to die in about three years.
The House passed its $3 trillion budget plan by a 212-207 vote. It would provide generous increases to domestic programs but bring the government’s ledger back into the black, but only by letting Bush’s tax cuts expire at the end of 2010 as scheduled.
The Senate passed a companion plan by a 51-44 vote. It endorsed extending $340 billion of Bush’s tax cuts but balked at continuing all of them. The competing versions head to talks in which the House is all but certain to accept the Senate’s position endorsing tax cuts for the working poor, married couples, people with children and those inheriting large estates.
The practice of inserting “earmarked” spending into legislation is seen by lawmakers in both parties a birthright power of the purse awarded to Congress by the Founding Fathers.
Earmarks have exploded in number and cost in recent years, accompanied by charges of abuse and public outrage over egregious examples such as the proposed “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska, which would have cost more than $200 million to serve an island with a population of about 50.
HOW THEY VOTED
• Republican senators John McCain and Jon Kyl both yes to ban earmarks.
• McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee was joined by yes votes from Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.