Democrats controlling the Senate abandoned on Thursday a huge catchall spending measure combining nearly $1.3 trillion worth of unfinished budget work, including another $158 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 1,924-page bill collapsed of its own weight after an outcry from conservatives who complained it was stuffed with more than $8 billion in homestate pet projects known as earmarks and wrapped together 12 bills into a single foot-tall piece of legislation that Democrats had hoped to pass with just a couple of days’ worth of debate.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., gave up on the bill after several Republicans who had been thinking of voting for it pulled back their support.
GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky threw his weight against the bill in recent days, saying it was “unbelievable” that Democrats would try to muscle through in the days before Christmas legislation that usually takes months to debate.
The turn of events was a major victory for earmark opponents like Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who for years have been steamrolled by the old-school members of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
But the spending barons saw their power ebb in the wake of midterm elections that delivered major gains for Republicans — with considerable help from anti-spending tea party activists.
Reid said he would work with McConnell to produce a short-term funding bill to keep the government running into early next year.