While Republicans denounced the 1,924 page Omnibus budget bill that was unveiled by Senate Democrats yesterday, their arguments against earmarks ran into some trouble during a news conference today.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) joined Sen. John Thune (R-SD) in the Senate Radio-TV Gallery in what was billed as a news conference to blast the move by Democrats to bring up this $1.1 trillion Omnibus in the waning days of this session of Congress.
“There is no reason other than political expediency to try to jam this bill through,” said Cornyn, accusing top Democrats of ignoring the message sent by voters in November, that they wanted less spending, not a bill filled with home-state budget earmarks.
But if advisers to the Senators thought the opening statements of Cornyn and Thune would set the theme for this news conference, they were wrong, because the fine print of the Omnibus showed many Republican Senators at the pork barrel trough as well.
My review found 45 earmarks for Cornyn and another 26 for Thune. Those examples didn’t get ignored by reporters.
“The bill contains many earmarks that you requested,” said one reporter, starting the Q&A.
“Pardon me?” said Cornyn.
“I intend to vote against those earmarks because the American people sent a message on November 2nd,” said the Texas Republican.
“Senator Thune, I was just looking at the list of earmark requests that you requested this year and it adds up to over a hundred million dollars,” said another reporter, asking the South Dakota Republican – who has been talked about as a Presidential hopeful – if he would strike those earmarks.
“I support those projects, but I don’t support this bill,” Thune answered.
Time for another question.
“Going through this bill, there is earmark after earmark from the both of you, millions of dollars in earmarks,” asked another scribe with a jab.
“Why do you have any credibility on this?”
“Because we’re going to vote against the bill,” answered Cornyn.
“It appears like you’re saying one thing and doing another,” another reporter pressed.
“Not at all,” said Cornyn, as Thune also stepped in to defend their stance on the Omnibus.
“We’ve got to leave it there – we’ve got to get going,” a GOP aide said, trying to end the press conference and quickly get the Senators out the door.
“Were you wrong when you put these earmarks in?” asked one reporter, ignoring the staffer.
“You’re missing the story if you think it’s just about earmarks,” Cornyn protested, trying to turn the focus back to Democratic leaders bringing this huge bill to the floor with little time for review.
“Thank you guys. Thank you very much,” the same staffer quickly interjected as Cornyn finished his answer, trying again to end the news conference.
“Is that an acknowledgement that it was wrong to put the earmarks in in the first place?” a reporter asked.
“You’ve asked the question about five times and I’ve tried to answer it to the best of my ability,” said a somewhat irked Cornyn, who then zipped out the door.