Total opposition to earmarking is a key tea party tenet, and the battle to get Republicans to voluntarily ban it in their ranks is already raging. Establishment leaders like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who favor earmarking for its time-honored electoral implications -- are clashing with pro-ban Senators led by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), the body's tea party hero.
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Lining up behind DeMint in the push to end earmarks are Sens. Jim Coburn (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Ensign (R-NV) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) -- along with Senators-elect Pat Toomey (R-PA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Ron Johnson (R-WI).
McConnell has reportedly been fighting behind the scenes to squash the proposed ban, and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) -- one of the Senate's most conservative members -- is publicly blasting his anti-earmark colleagues for hypocrisy.
Who wins the scrum could have broad implications in 2012.