Sen. Lindsey Graham has been using Donald Trump to convince skeptical fellow Senate Republicans about returning the appropriations.
Because it is important: Both parties gave up member-led spending a decade ago, saying it too often led to corruption. Democrats are getting it back this year, House Republicans agree, but Senate Republicans remain the last to resist.
- Graham told his colleagues last week that “the top Republican in the country, that is, Trump, supports the appropriations and why we shouldn’t.”
- The South Carolinian invoked the former president and Republican leader in exile when the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee held a closed-door meeting to discuss the way forward for public spending.
- A source inside the Capitol room paraphrased Graham’s argument.
In a phone interview with Axios Monday night, Graham confirmed that he had made a strong case to his colleagues.
- “Democrats do it; if we don’t do it, we’re stupid,” Graham said, he argued.
- He said Democrats will gain a political advantage if they can direct money to competitive states while their counterparts cannot. “We shouldn’t be left out of the game.”
- Graham does not buy the two main arguments against budget allocations: that corruption is inevitable or that they inherently lead to higher public spending.
- Transparency in the process can protect against corruption, he said. And stopping allocations did not lead to a reduction in spending.
Advocates have argued that specific assignments incentivize bipartisan bargaining, as members of both parties engage in legislation when it contains expenditures specifically directed at their individual districts
- They also argue that their past abuses can be prevented with public disclosure of allocations, a ban on directing them to private companies and a limit on their size.
Between lines: Graham made his comments when the Appropriations Committee members discussed the allocations and the fact that the other three corners of Capitol Hill had given the green light to the practice.
- Graham acknowledged the resistance of Senate Republicans, but noted that House Republicans had also been vehemently critical in public, until they backed member-led spending in a secret ballot.
What we are seeing: Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the highest-ranking Republican in appropriations, told Axios that the recall of House Republicans “helps create the dynamic” for getting approvals in Senate appropriations.
- He and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), The committee chairman, “are talking about it; we’re friends,” adding, “I think we have a constitutional right … to control money, Congress does. .. “
The panorama: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has publicly questioned whether his conference will bring back the appropriations.
- In Fox News’ “Special Report” last month, host Bret Baier noted that during George W. Bush’s presidency, McConnell was an advocate for appropriations and asked if it made sense to “restore spending authority that essentially went to executive power. “
- McConnell responded, “I represent the entire conference” and that the “overwhelming majority … are not in favor of returning to assignments.”
Whats Next: A Senate leadership source said the appropriations issue won’t be resolved until next month.
- That will be “almost certainly” at a special meeting of the Republican conference, and by secret ballot, should a vote be requested.