A generation gap is dividing GOP members of Congress over the classic conflict between doing good for the country and doing well for the voters who sent them there.
According to Washington insiders' bible, The Hill, "earmarking funds back home is becoming the most divisive issue facing congressional Republicans.
"The fight largely pits junior conservatives--arguing that the failure of Republicans to aggressively fight earmarking is preventing the GOP from reclaiming the mantle of fiscal responsibility--against party veterans, who say that it is their prerogative to choose funding priorities..."
Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Alaska's Ted (Bridge-to-Nowhere) Stevens, who is trying to remove him as chairman of the conservative Steering Committee, are the leading antagonists. The subject is likely to set off sparks at today's annual retreat of Senate Republicans.
In the House, a proposal being pushed by Young Turks Mike Pence of Indiana, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Jeb Hensarling of Texas, calls for a moratorium on earmarking for the rest of the year. They plan to push the House GOP conference to rally around their plan at their retreat tomorrow.
“This would be pure electoral gold for Republicans,” Flake says, pointing out that Democrats were not likely to stop earmarking in response.
Pence asserts the pledge would show Americans that House GOP members were willing to “set aside the priorities of our districts for a year” to get spending under control and would pressure Democrats to follow suit.
Proof that voters care about the issue can be seen on a web site that tracks earmarks.
Post-Bush, Republicans may be in disarray, but at their retreats this week, there will be a good deal of talk about charging back toward power.