Skip to main content

GOP senators will vote against spending bill over earmarks -- theirs and others'

By Ed Hornick, CNN
Click to play
New bill has billions in new earmarks
  • Senators slam spending bill that includes $8 billion in earmarks
  • Cornyn, Thune have requested more than $300 million in earmarks
  • Sen. Jim DeMint says he'll force entire bill to be read aloud, which could take two days

Washington (CNN) -- Two prominent Republicans vowed Wednesday to vote against the $1.1 trillion spending bill, citing concerns over pork-laden pet projects, although millions of dollars of earmarks in the bill were requested by the two senators.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas has requested 54 earmarks worth more than $170 million and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota has made 43 requests totaling more than $165 million, according to an analysis by Taxpayers Against Earmarks, Taxpayers for Common Sense and, which collected data from disclosures on Congressional websites.

Check out a list of the earmarks in the bill

When asked by Fox News to explain his earmarks, Cornyn said Wednesday, "I believe I can. But I'm not going to, because I'm going to vote against this bill. ... So I am for voting this bill down, even though it could arguably help some of my constituents."

ABC's Jonathan Karl asked Cornyn at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, "How do you have any credibility on this?" Cornyn replied, "because we're going to vote against the bill. ... This is the wrong way to do business."

Another reporter asked, "Sen. 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." Thune responded by saying he supports the projects but doesn't support the bill.

Thune continued to blast Democrats for earmarks.

"The Democrats failed at their responsibility and are now trying to reward themselves with a pork-filled, omnibus spending bill," he said. "The Democrats certainly don't deserve an award for their mismanagement and the American people don't deserve or want this bill that heaps more debt onto the backs of future generations."

The FY 2011 Consolidated Appropriations Act -- which combines 12 spending bills that Congress was supposed to tackle -- includes about $8 billion in earmarks. The House previously passed its spending bills.

If the Senate bill does not pass the bill by Saturday at 11:59 p.m., funding runs out and the government could be forced to shut down. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office said there could be some flexibility to act Sunday, because most of the government is closed Sunday. As long as a measure is passed before Monday, it should not affect government operations, Reid's office said.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina is threatening to have the entire bill read on the floor, which a DeMint spokesman said could take 40 to 60 hours.

Readings of measures are usually waived by unanimous consent. But any senator can request that they be read. During the health care reform debate a year ago, clerks began reading a 767-page amendment creating a single-payer system at the request of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, before the amendment was withdrawn.

Read more on the spending bill

Meanwhile, another GOP lawmaker is also taking heat for adding earmarks to the bill after vowing to put a moratorium on them.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is known for sending millions of dollars to his home state of Kentucky.

In the current spending bill, some of his earmarks include: $18 million for a Fort Knox railhead upgrade for the military, $2.5 million for health facilities at Western Kentucky University and $3 million to widen a road at Fort Campbell.

See a map of states with the highest earmarks

McConnell put in for those earmarks and then changed his mind on the bill. On Tuesday he said that it doesn't matter if they're in the bill because he is going to fight hard against the spending bill.

"I am actively working to defeat it. And I think there are many members of the Senate who have provisions in it for their states who are also actively working to defeat it," he said. "This bill should not go forward."

A Senate Democratic aide on the appropriations committee said McConnell could have taken the earmarks out, but noted that instead he decided to try to defeat the bill.

Cornyn and Thune agree.

"I will vote against the motion to proceed to this bill," Thune said. "If we get on the bill, I will vote against the bill. If amendments are offered to strip earmarks, I will vote for those amendments. But there's a better way, and the better way is to reject this way of doing business."

Cornyn added that sentiment by the American public against wasteful spending, as seen in polls, is why he is voting against the bill.

"We've said very clearly we voted for an earmark moratorium. We will abide by that and we will reject any earmarks requested by us or anyone else, because that's what the American people told us they want."

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said he thinks there are enough votes to pass the bill.

CNN's Ted Barrett, Dana Bash and Lesa Jansen contributed to this report.