WASHINGTON — The Republican Party in recent days has rallied around the idea, pushed prominently by Tea Party activists, that Congress should resist earmarks, those pork-barrel projects that help filter money back to home districts.
But even as they publicly push a moratorium on the practice, some in the caucus are looking for a way out. On Tuesday morning, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that she wants to redefine exactly what an earmark is. Specifically, she said, transportation projects should not be placed under the umbrella.
“Advocating for transportation projects for ones district in my mind does not equate to an earmark,” said the Minnesota Republican. âª”I don’t believe that building roads and bridges and interchanges should be considered an earmark… There’s a big difference between funding a tea pot museum and a bridge over a vital waterway.”
As one of the leading Tea Party figures in D.C., Bachmann could risk tarnishing her brand and the brand of the movement in her attempts to emphasize the need for a redefinition of earmarks. As one Republican operative, who pointed out the quote to the Huffington Post, noted, her logic is “just odd.”
The Star-Tribune notes that Bachmann “did solicit some earmarks when she first came to Congress” but “has been outspoken in pushing House Republicans to continue an earmark moratorium enacted last year.” But transportation funds are vital for job creation. And it seems likely that the reality of having a major spigot cut off is a bit frightening to even the self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives on the Hill.