I’m surprised it took three whole days for Senate Republicans to break their earmark pledge.
Only three days after GOP senators and senators-elect renounced earmarks, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Senate Republican, got himself a whopping $200 million to settle an Arizona Indian tribe’s water rights claim against the government.
Kyl slipped the measure into a larger bill sought by President Barack Obama and passed by the Senate on Friday to settle claims by black farmers and American Indians against the federal government. Kyl’s office insists the measure is not an earmark, and the House didn’t deem it one when it considered a version earlier this year.
But it meets the know-it-when-you-see-it test, critics say. Under Senate rules, an earmark is a spending item inserted “primarily at the request of a senator” that goes “to an entity, or (is) targeted to a specific state.”
I don’t think money for the White Mountain Apache Tribe is anything to condemn. I don’t know the specifics of the case, it seems to line up with the overall bill’s emphasis on settling lawsuits with minority communities, and for all I know the Apache were swindled out of water rights. And Democrats got in on the act as well; Max Baucus and Jeff Bingaman added water rights settlement projects to the overall bill. Meanwhile, I agree with this from Republican Jeff Flake:
“You have to do these water settlements or allow the courts to simply award damages,” said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., perhaps the most anti-earmark member of Congress.
Yes, that’s why Democrats have tried to get the black farmer and Native American trust accounts settled for almost two years, blocked every time by Republicans. Until Jon Kyl.
Enough of the policy. On the politics, this is great and kind of hilarious. Kyl was among those new converts railing against the scourge of earmarks, even while he sought nuclear pork as a condition for assenting to the new START treaty. He’s a complete hypocrite and it took all of three days for that to become clear. Second, Democrats actually managed to pounce on this. Patrick Leahy said on the Senate floor, “I do know an earmark when I see it. And this, my friends, is an earmark.” Third, this benefits the state of Arizona, home of longtime porkbuster hypocrite John McCain.
Kyl’s clearly running scared from this; he declined an interview with the GOP. So far, that low profile is working; none of the usual tea party suspects have picked up on this. That may be a matter of time, or they may adhere to IOKIYAR orthodoxy. Either way, Kyl looks fairly ridiculous, and due to his position in the GOP leadership, that should be exploited.