The lack of bipartisanship in Washington has been widely noted and decried, but it has made a quick reappearance, thanks to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of all people.
Pelosi broached the idea of banning earmarks at a party leadership gathering last week. Discussion was "brief and inconclusive," according to Roll Call, the Capitol Hill paper, but no one raised major objections and leaders wanted to explore the topic with David Obey, the Appropriations Committee chairman.
Pelosi's trial balloon, however, was quickly embraced by House Minority Leader John Boehner, whose spokesman said, "For more than two years we've been asking House Democrats to joins us in an earmark moratorium and real earmark reform."
And Republican Sen. Jim DeMint also commended Pelosi and pledged to force a vote in that chamber. "Nancy Pelosi and I don't agree on many things, but if she's willing to take a stand for taxpayers, I'll work with her to put an end to the earmark favor factory," he said Tuesday.
Pelosi's idea was broached as way for Democrats, tangled in the health-care reform morass and beset by high unemployment and fresh ethical concerns, to counter their bleak prospects in this fall's congressional elections by espousing an issue with wide popular appeal. So far this fiscal year, members of both parties in both chambers have secured earmarks totaling $15.9 billion, according to one tally.
But it also had a practical angle: With the Senate tied in partisan knots, House Democrats figure their earmarks would probably be scrapped as their spending bills get tossed into an omnibus appropriations measure.
Pelosi may not have expected such a groundswell of support -- and some of her caucus members who treasure their ability to bestow largess on their districts are no doubt chagrined -- but the idea definitely has "legs," whether or not it salvages her majority in November.