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Senate votes to end secret 'earmarks'

Story Highlights

• New rules would force disclosure of "earmarks" 24 hours before a vote
• Earmarks would be published on the Internet
• Democratic leadership backed rules after narrower restrictions failed
• Critics say earmarks contribute to deficit spending
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The days of lawmakers slipping pet projects into spending bills at the last minute are ending after the Senate approved a new rule Tuesday forcing members to disclose requests for those "earmarks."

The earmarks would have to be posted on the Internet at least two days before legislation comes up for a vote.

The new disclosure requirements -- part of an ethics and lobbying overhaul that's expected to come up for a final vote later this week -- passed 98-0.

The House already approved similar language to combat earmarks, a much-maligned process in which spending items championed by individual lawmakers are buried in appropriations bills to ease them through the legislative machinery.

The rule change approved Tuesday does not prohibit earmarks, which critics often denounce as "pork barrel" spending. However, senators who request money for a project or tax break that benefits a select group must now provide a written statement outlining the purpose of the request and who will benefit, and certifying that they themselves will not benefit financially.

Those statements must be posted on the Internet within 48 hours after they are submitted to the committee with jurisdiction over the request.

Also, at least 48 hours before a bill comes up for a vote, any earmarks included in the legislation, and the names of their sponsors, must be listed on the Internet. This includes measures that bypass the normal committee process and conference reports reconciling differences between Senate and House bills -- both of which have been magnets for earmarks in the past.

Senators will also be prohibited from agreeing to include earmarks to induce another senator to vote their way on another bill.

The new disclosure requirements are similar to those passed by the House, although the House did not require information about earmarks to be posted on the Internet.

The disclosure rules, proposed by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, were originally opposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who backed language with a narrower definition of what constituted an earmark.

But after a procedural vote to shelve DeMint's proposal failed last week -- with nine Democrats breaking ranks -- Reid and the Democratic leadership changed course and backed the new requirements.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, proposed strengthening DeMint's proposal by requiring earmarks to be posted on the Internet, a change his fellow senators unanimously embraced Tuesday.

CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid backed a rule change that was less restrictive than the one that passed, but changed course after that proposal failed.



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