Today, we learned that the Tea Party doesn’t need to elect its candidates to advance its agenda. When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in the words of Politico’s Manu Raju, “stunned official Washington on Monday by saying he would support a two-year ban on the pet projects“, it was the statement heard round the blogosphere, resounding across the Beltway. This shrewd politician could read the tea leaves.
This former champion of earmarks was deft in explaining his change of heart (some have called it a flip-flop or “about-face“). He claims to “know the good that has come from the projects I have helped support throughout my state” and refuses to apologize for them:
But there is simply no doubt that the abuse of this practice has caused Americans to view it as a symbol of the waste and the out-of-control spending that every Republican in Washington is determined to fight. And unless people like me show the American people that we’re willing to follow through on small or even symbolic things, we risk losing them on our broader efforts to cut spending and rein in government.
That’s why today I am announcing that I will join the Republican Leadership in the House in support of a moratorium on earmarks in the 112th Congress.
“Behind this principled sounding explanation,” Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff writes
. . . lie solid pragmatic considerations. For one thing, McConnell presumably does not wish to face, or see members of caucus face, strong Tea Party opposition in primaries over the next few cycles.
More fundamentally, McConnell presumably does not want a schism develop between the leadership and the Tea Party faction of his caucus over an issue that is mostly symbolic. Indeed, if McConnell can navigate his way through this issue, there may be no schism.
Read the whole thing. What is significant is that McConnell recognizes that what political benefit might once have come from earmarks has long since evaporated with the growing public concern about spendthrift politicians in our nation’s capital. A small government consensus continues to emerge.
The Tea Party has helped make it good politics to oppose the pork-barrel politicians which incumbents once thought essential to survival.