"Every President, Republican or Democrat, would love to have a blank check from Congress to do whatever he chose to do on every single issue," McConnell warned. "And we'll be discussing the appropriateness of giving the President that kind of blank check in the coming weeks."
"That's really what that issues about," McConnell added.
You can eliminate every congressional earmark and you would save no money. It's really an argument about discretion. We decide how much we're going to spend either when we pass a budget or in the case of this past year when we don't pass a budget, we produce a top-line for the discretionary spending. That top-line determines what gets spent. Beneath the top-line there are arguments going back to Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson between the executive branch and the legislative branch over sayso.... That's been a much-discussed issue on the campaign trail, and we'll take a look at it when we get back. But I'm sure the President would love to have a legislative blank check.
McConnell is correct. Republicans who cite earmarks as a source of potential savings are, intentionally or unintentionally, mistaken.
But that doesn't mean the GOP base or conservative members will go quietly when appropriation season returns. Even before the election, McConnell had an uneasy relationship with the right flank of his base. That relation hasn't improved just because of the election and could easily intensify when more-conservative members of both the House and Senate come to Washington in January.