Pat Toomey is wasting no time in displaying how much different a senator he will be than the man he's replacing, appropriations maven Arlen Specter. The senator-elect is signing onto a proposal by Sen. Jim DeMint, Teaparty-S.C., to ban earmarks in the Republican conference. DeMint, as reported by Politico, announced this morning that his earmark ban has the backing of 10 current and future colleagues: rising freshmen Toomey, Marco Rubio (Florida), Rand Paul (Kentucky), Mike Lee (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) and Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire); and incumbents John Cornyn (Texas), John Ensign (Nevada), Mike Enzi (Wyoming) and Tom Coburn (Oklahoma).
The secret ballot vote is scheduled for next Tuesday in the GOP conference meeting, and Politico's Manu Raju reports it "could come down to the wire." House Republicans instituted their own earmark ban last year, but the Senate GOP did not follow suit. With the influx of new spending-conscious members, that could change. Toomey, though he did request earmarks when he first got to the U.S. House, has long railed against them as wasteful. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has defended earmarking as a constitutional exercise of Congressional power of the purse.
Specter would fall in McConnell's camp: In five terms spent (mostly) as a Republican, he used his seniority on the Appropriations Committee to steer home plenty of pork. With the loss of Specter and the death of Rep. John P. Murtha, the federal spigot to the Keystone State figures to slow dramatically -- and that appears to be just fine with Sen.-elect Toomey.
UPDATE 3:02 p.m.: Here's a link to the brief letter, which features the same language as the House earmarks ban and has Toomey's signature on it.