Earmark Ban Takes Shape on Capitol Hill

By: - February 2, 2011 12:00 am

Daniel Inouye, the powerful chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday (February 1) that he would prevent all earmarks from moving through the chamber for the next two years, The Washington Post reports . Inouye’s decision marks a reversal of the public position he has taken for months and is certain to have negative fiscal consequences for the states, including his own.

Inouye, a Democrat, has been such a staunch defender of congressional earmarks that Republicans and others have labeled him “King of Pork.” His change of heart comes after the GOP reclaimed the House of Representatives in November and vowed to put the brakes on federal spending, beginning with earmarks. President Obama ramped up the pressure on the Senate when he promised to veto any spending bill containing earmarks during his State of the Union address last week.

“The handwriting is clearly on the wall,” Inouye said Tuesday. “Given the reality before us, it makes no sense to accept earmark requests that have no chance of being enacted into law.”

Hawaii, which Inouye has represented in the Senate for nearly five decades, stands to lose $321 million immediately because of the earmark ban, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports . The money was included in a $1.3 trillion federal spending bill that was abandoned amid Republican opposition during December’s lame-duck session of Congress. 

Hawaii also had more earmarks per capita than any other state in 2010, according to separate rankings from Taxpayers for Common Sense and Citizens Against Government Waste , two watchdog organizations.

While many Hawaii projects stand to lose funding because of Inouye’s announcement, Republicans in his home state praised the decision. “The King of Pork’s years of earmarking have left Hawaii unnecessarily dependent on federal government handouts,” Jonah Kaauwai, chair of the Hawaii Republican Party, told the Star Advertiser . “I believe that Hawaii’s people want to and can be self-sustaining, and this is a positive first step toward standing on our own two feet and getting our nation out of debt.”

For a national overview of which states stand to lose the most from a congressional ban on earmarks, read earlier Stateline coverage

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