Jerry Moran showed up at the U.S. Senate's first Tea Party Caucus meeting on Thursday with the political equivalent of lipstick on his collar.
Tea-party organizations want Congress to ban earmarks. Moran thinks it's a good idea, but he's a relatively recent convert. While in the U.S. House, he regularly made earmark requests. During the 2010 fiscal year, he asked for $19.4 million for various projects and then, during the campaign, would tell any Kansan he could find that federal spending was what was making them sad.
Moran was standing around the Chex bowl at Thursday's meeting when Slate writer David Weigel sidled up to him. Calling Moran's arrival at the caucus a "surprise," Weigel asked Moran how he dealt with tea partiers who were critical of his earmarking past.
[H]e seemed, at first, to be surprised to learn that such criticism existed.The senator then found the passive voice and acknowledged that, yes, once upon a time, a Kansas lawmaker named Jerry Moran may have tried to tear off pieces of the federal budget for the folks back home.
"You think that's me?" said Moran. "I don't know that criticism. I don't know that. I've been involved with [U.S. Rep. and earmark opponent] Jeff Flake for a long time. We were part of the 30 folks in the House who requested the Republican conference to deal with the earmark issue. I supported the efforts here in the Senate, when I got here, to establish a moratorium on earmarks for the next two years."
I don't deny that in the past there have been earmark requests, but what transpired is this realization that we can't afford spending, and the realization that earmarks are a way that get members of Congress to vote for spending that, again, we can't afford."