Republican leaders in the Senate have decided not to cut earmarks sponsored by beleaguered Sen. Larry Craig as they back away from efforts to pressure him into resigning his seat.
Craig’s name is attached to 84 earmarks in various annual spending bills, and he is the sole sponsor of 22 projects, The Hill newspaper reports.
Party leaders often punish Senators by cutting special projects they have requested for their home state in appropriations bills, and they could have opted to use this leverage to force Craig out.
But Craig now says “we are very much working to keep everything in place, and I’m pleased about the progress. I feel like I’m being effective and I’ll continue to work.”
GOP leaders had put pressure on Craig to resign in late August after it was disclosed that the Idaho Republican had been caught in an undercover sex sting in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.
The leaders also stripped Craig of his senior position on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Craig announced that he intended to resign on Sept. 30, but changed his mind and now says he will remain in the Senate until his term ends at the end of next year. He has filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.
Now Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott of Mississippi has said he is not putting any pressure on Craig to resign, and that he saw no reason to go after Craig’s spending projects.
“As long as a person is in the Senate, he or she has an obligation to represent the [home] state on projects that are important,” Lott told The Hill.
And Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said: “Why punish the state of Idaho if they have a perfectly legitimate project which their senator has called to our attention?”
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