Thad Cochran: 'I Think Earmarks Have Gotten A Bad Name'

Thad Cochran: 'I Think Earmarks Have Gotten A Bad Name'

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) suggested to National Public Radio (NPR) he would like to bring earmarks back to Congress.

“I think earmarks have gotten a bad name,” Cochran told the national radio outlet for a piece it published on the race between Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel for the GOP nomination for the seat.

Cochran said if Congress isn’t allow to earmark spending, then federal agencies have more authority over how to spend the money. “For those who are opposed to that [earmarks], [they] are for the federal agencies making the decision [where money is spent],” Cochran said, adding, “This is supposed to be government of and by and for the people — not for the bureaucrats,” Cochran said.

Speaker John Boehner just reiterated his opposition to earmarks Monday, and House Republican Leadership is firmly opposed to the idea. After a struggle, even Sen. Mitch McConnell, a longtime member of the appropriations committee, supported banning earmarks in 2010.

“Banning earmarks is another small but important symbolic step we can take to show that we’re serious, another step on the way to serious and sustained cuts in spending and to the debt,” McConnell said when he backed the ban in November 2010.

Earmarks are provisions in spending bills requiring federal agencies to spend money on specific local projects. They became controversial because many of the projects were seen as wasteful and parochial, and earmarks came to be used as leverage to “buy” votes on difficult bills. 

Cochran has supported a number of major earmarks over the years, including the infamous Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) “Bridge to Nowhere.”

Supporting earmarks isn’t likely to help Cochran in the GOP primary, and is one of a series of clumsy remarks he’s made on the campaign trail. Cochran said on two different occasions he doesn’t know very much about the Tea Party movement.

NPR’s Debbie Elliott noted in her report that there is something named for Cochran in every locality. “You can find something named for Cochran in just about every county in Mississippi,” Elliott wrote.

Elliott quotes ex-political science professor from Southern Miss Joseph Parker to note that Cochran’s name everywhere on taxpayer-funded projects could be a good thing, or could be a bad thing for the senior senator. “His name on buildings reflects his clout and influence in the Senate,” a major talking point of the Cochran campaign, Parker said, adding though: “If you believe that government ought to be shrunk enormously, all of this largesse that Cochran has brought in — it’s exhibit A of what you don’t like about the government.”

Earlier this year, Breitbart News first reported on a series of taxpayer-funded buildings that bear Cochran’s name throughout the state. Cochran has more buildings named after himself in Mississippi than any other current federal lawmaker has in his or her state or district.

Cochran’s campaign did get some good news Tuesday: the Mississippi chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses endorsed him.

“Senator Cochran has a long-standing strong record of listening to, supporting and voting to protect our small businesses,” said Ron Aldridge, state director of NFIB/Mississippi. 

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