Spitballing on national television, President Trump floated the idea of bringing back earmarks. That was naïve, because the president has no say in congressional procedure. It was also stupid, because making earmarks great again would force an identity crisis impossible for the White House to survive.
Trump would be attacking the signature fiscal conservative achievements of his vice president and at least four of his key Cabinet members.
The Internet is full of speeches and press releases and video clips of his allies condemning the earmark. At the Republican National Convention most recently, for instance, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., introduced Vice President Mike Pence as the man who “led the charge to ban earmarks in Congress and he won.” Easily accessible, these archives would immediately be used to pin the White House to the wall.
Pence declared the end of the earmark-era as chairman of the Republican Conference chairman in 2010, telling Hugh Hewitt that there would be “zero tolerance for the kind of pork-barrel spending.” An original co-sponsor of the earmark moratorium, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions regularly condemned the practice as “political device used to buy votes.”
Go even farther down the Cabinet boardroom and one finds more of the same. While in the House of Representatives, Mick Mulvaney sponsored a bill to permanently end the practice in 2015. While running for Congress, Mike Pompeo cut an ad promising to “ban all earmarks.” And while still in the Senate, Dan Coats called on his colleagues to make a moratorium “the law of the land.”
Obviously for the sake of good government, Trump should stop all this silly talk about earmarks. But if that’s not enough, the president should think about his friends. Forcing them to try to flip-flop from all their earlier statements is impossible—even for his administration.