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Tea Party Fuels Born-Again Earmark Opponents Tea Party Fuels Born-Again Earmark Opponents

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Tea Party Fuels Born-Again Earmark Opponents

In a statement on Tuesday, Hutchison said the moratorium will begin correcting the national debt -- a Tea Party rallying cry - and a far cry from her past rhetoric. "I will be supportive of an earmark moratorium when it comes up for a vote in the Republican Conference as a way to the start the process of reform that is essential to address the crushing debt our country has accumulated," Hutchison said. "The Republicans in Congress are working to put America's financial house in order, and it will take comprehensive reform." Hutchison is far from the only born-again earmark opponent. Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R), also worried about a primary challenge in 2012, has sounded a tough line on earmarks. Even though she requested $109 million worth of earmarks in 2010, she was an early supporter of the moratorium. Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker (R) is another surprising supporter of the moratorium. A veteran appropriator, Wicker requested $384 million worth of earmarks in 2010, in a state that's relied on federal funds for its military bases and shipyards, among other projects. But he's up for re-election in 2012, and his support of the moratorium is probably with a primary challenger in mind. Sen.-elect Dan Coats (R-Ind.) also opened himself up to charges of hypocrisy in supporting the moratorium. After leaving the Senate in 1999, Coats worked for years as a lobbyist who helped secure millions in earmarks for his clients. In the GOP primary this year, Coats eked out a victory thanks to a split conservative field of candidates who divided the Tea Party vote. And then there's the case of Coats' Indiana colleague, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) -- the striking exception to the rule. Lugar is one of the few senators (along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) to publicly criticize the moratorium. And Lugar has gone public, even as those comments are inviting conservative challengers against him in 2012. "The Constitution explicitly states that it is the responsibility of Congress to make decisions on the appropriation of federal taxpayer funds," Lugar said in a statement. Already, at least three Republicans are considering challenging Lugar in 2012. All of them would run to Lugar's right and they just were handed a potent piece of oppo to use against him.

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