LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Republican Sen.-elect John Boozman said Thursday that he hasn't decided whether to support a GOP moratorium on earmarks in the Senate, even though he supported a similar ban in Congress.
Boozman, who defeated Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln in last week's election in Arkansas, said he's looking forward to discussion among Republican senators on a proposal to effectively bar any Republican from getting earmarks. South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint is proposing the GOP ban.
Boozman said he wants to see what other options are when Republicans consider the matter next week. Boozman said there are some worthwhile projects that are already under construction using earmarked dollars.
"What happens to those things? Do they just stop? If nobody asks for the money, do we have to rely on the president to do that? It's really a very far reaching thing," Boozman told The Associated Press. "I'm in complete agreement that with earmarks we need full disclosure. I think a number of earmarks, there's no place for. But there are some projects are that very important that are part of the way under construction."
Earmarks are congressional pet spending projects used to fund things such as new roads and bridges, grants to local police departments and community development initiatives. Critics deride them as pork-barrel projects that are contributing to the huge federal deficit.
During the campaign, Lincoln regularly defended earmarks and called them the "great equalizer" for small, rural states like Arkansas. She regularly criticized Boozman for supporting a GOP moratorium on earmarks in the House, saying he was sacrificing the state for his own political interest. [Read more about government spending.]
Boozman said during the campaign he didn't believe all earmarks were bad, but that the process for obtaining them needed to change.
He said he thinks there may be other options for addressing earmarks when Republicans consider DeMint's proposal.
"You have a system that has grown up over a period of time. Part of it's worthwhile, part of it is rife with wasted spending," Boozman said. "The question is how do you reform that process. We just have to see what the options are."
DeMint won backing from 25 Senate Republicans earlier this year to impose an earmark ban on Republicans and Democrats alike. Despite winning the support of a majority of Republicans, the proposal was easily defeated by Democrats and 14 pro-earmark Republicans. Thirty-three of 41 Senate Republicans then sought earmarks in this year's unfinished roster of spending bills.
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