Yes, the earmarks ban did even worse than one might have expected: Only 39 senators voted for the ban; 56 voted against it; 5 refrained from voting.
Sure, a ban on earmarks wasn’t going to wipe out the deficit. But such a ban would marginally have changed the way things are done in Washington. The Senate would not have been able to vote on any bill that had earmarks tacked onto it. It would also have demonstrated to the public that the Congress “gets” it.
Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard noted:
We’re only three weeks past one of the biggest midterm blowouts in American history — one that happened largely because of outrage over government spending — and 56 senators vote to keep earmarks. Including eight Republicans? Yeesh. Two of these eight are retiring, but this is still just extraordinary.
Congress is an institution where members manage to stay by making the people in the district happy-generally, that means projects. As Cost points out, this means that they are more concerned with their districts than the nation. I agree with Cost that we have to keep trying to eradicate the pork:
Every Republican candidate for president is going to claim to be a true conservative who will hold spending down. But not every one of them will be telling the truth! They’ll tell conservatives what they want to hear next spring, then get into office and decide it’s better to let the GOP Congress’s pork barrel budget sail through. That can’t be tolerated any more — the long term reputation of the party is on the line, among other things — and it’s going to be up to grassroots conservatives to make sure the nominee will actually hold the line when he gets into office.