Would you say no to earmarks? "No—no more earmarks," replied Rand Paul to Christine Amanpour last Sunday on This Week. This stance was supposed to be one thing that distinguished the "lone pure Tea Party stalwart" from the GOP establishment in the Senate chamber. Yet, Paul has already begun to tip-toe away from his "no earmark" pledge, clarifying that he will, in fact, "fight for Kentucky's share of earmarks and federal pork" according to an interview with The Wall Street Journal's Matthew Kaminski.
Not surprisingly, conservatives are not pleased with Rand Paul's immediate about-face from his campaign platform, and liberal pundits also noted the speed with which Paul apparently decided to ditch the Tea Party position. Perhaps tellingly, The Journal chose to open the interview with this quote from the Kentucky Senator-elect: "I'm not someone who's sort of still trying to figure out what I believe in. I don't think I'm really open to having Washington change me."
He's Already 'Selling Out'... Examining the interview with Rand Paul and Roy Blunt (the Missouri Senator-elect), The National Review's Veronique de Rugy notices its attempt to showcase Blunt as the "old-school earmark-loving successful lawmaker" and Paul as the "pure libertarian type." She concludes of Paul's about-face: "I am fully aware that the issue of earmarks is a very symbolic one. Getting rid of earmarks won’t save us from the current debt explosion, nor is it likely to end the spending; it will just leave the decision in the hands of the agencies rather than selected lawmakers....I would have expected a little more time between Paul’s election and statements like this one."
...To Join Up With the GOP Establishment Tanya Somanader at ThinkProgress notes the irony of the Senator-elect's remarks. "While Paul touts his anti-establishment, Tea Party credentials, he is actually joining some in the House and Senate GOP establishment in disregarding the Tea Party’s wishes on earmarks....If he’s already selling out his Tea Party pledges, as the conservative National Review suggests, Paul may be proving earmark-happy Rep. Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) sentiments correct: 'they can be as ideological as they want before getting to Washington but will soon discover that things are quite different once inside of the beast.'"
The Tea Party Simply Enables the GOP to Do the 'Same Old Things' The American Prospect's Tim Fernholz isn't too shocked by the Senator-elect's early earmark concession: "Paul's not wrong -- earmarks are just a symbol; they're a tiny percentage of the federal budget and generally involve already authorized funds that someone would appropriate in any case. But after whining about out-of-control spending for his entire campaign, including earmarks, the switch is impressive, at least in terms of expediency. It's also not surprising, at least to anyone paying attention....As he's well demonstrated, the Tea Party movement has only given more power to Republicans, who will do the same old Republican things they did when they were last in power, deficits and debt be damned."
Is This Really Such a Shocker? Salon's War Room blogger Alex Pareene chimes in: "Rand Paul's been a senator-elect for less than a week and he's already a total sellout. (This will, I'm sure, shock everyone who hasn't read most of the public statements he's made since winning the GOP nomination.) But he's not just moving toward the establishment Republican line on foreign policy. He actually seems to have already abandoned one of the core libertarian tenets of his campaign."
The Difficult Situation He Put Himself In "Though earmarks are omens of what Paul's conservative base has deemed the evil spending ways of Washington, they are also an important tool for securing vital federal funds for useful state projects, writes The Huffington Post's Nick Wing. "GOP Leaders Boehner and McConnell both appeared dismissive and brutally realistic about the possibility of an earmark ban last week, painting it as a token undertaking that would not actually cut deficits or spending.The new cooled attitude hasn't stopped Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), however, who is largely responsible for the conception of the idea of an earmark ban amongst some GOP senators. On Monday, DeMint was reportedly collecting signatures from Republicans in a move to call for a vote to ban earmarks."