Pork Wars

So much for taking the day off.

All three presidential candidates returned to Washington, D.C., today to vote on a Senate bill that would put a moratorium on earmarks for a year. John McCain drafted the bill, and both Clinton and Obama have been trying to one-up each other’s hatred of earmarks, so naturally they all wanted to be seen supporting the ban.

But now, thanks to some strategic Democratic jockeying, the bill won’t come to a vote until later tonight. At which point, the candidates will have left for the trail—and McCain won’t be able to tout his vote on the bill. (Either way, it’s expected to fail .)

Still, the candidates did manage to score points during the day. To coincide with the vote, Obama’s campaign released all the earmarks he secured for Illinois in fiscal year 2007 and challenged Clinton to do the same. It’s the latest volley in the Obama campaign’s case that Clinton lacks transparency; they’ve been urging her to release her papers stored in the Clinton Presidential Library as well as her tax returns. However, the Associated Press points out that Obama has ignored requests for the same information related to his years as an Illinois state senator.

The funny thing is, you can barely call the earmarks issue a “debate” anymore, at least on the campaign trail. The candidates all agree! Sure, they can bicker over who opposed earmarks first and most vigorously. McCain sent out a memo today congratulating Democrats on their “new-found enthusiasm for suspending this practice for a year.” Obama’s transparency gambit is meant to make Clinton look soft on the issue. But in the end, they’re all anti-pork—a fact that could neuter what would otherwise be a strong weapon for McCain. Now if only they could vote on it.