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McCain: Congress 'disconnected' from Americans

  • Story Highlights
  • Sen. John McCain blasts Congress after Senate votes down earmark moratorium
  • McCain: Congress and the Senate are "disconnected from the American people."
  • Arizona senator prides himself on having never requested an earmark
  • Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton vote with McCain for the bill Thursday
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SPRINGFIELD, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain charged Friday the Senate was ignoring the will of the people when it rejected a one-year moratorium on earmarks that he co-sponsored.

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Sen. John McCain of Arizona has long been a vocal critic of earmarks.

The Senate voted 71-29 against the ban late Thursday night.

"There's only one place left in America that they don't get it," McCain told a town hall gathering outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, referring to Washington. "Pork-barrel spending is out of control and Americans want it stopped."

He said the result "is an interesting commentary on how the Congress and the Senate [are] disconnected from the American people."Video Watch more of McCain's comments »

McCain returned to the Senate for the first time in a month to cast his ballot for an issue that is one of his central themes on the campaign trail.

Of the 29 votes in favor of the measure, six were from Democrats, including rivals Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. McCain accused both Democrats of wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars in earmarks.

Earmarks are requests for money by a specific legislator, usually for her or his constituency, added onto often unrelated government spending bills.

"The first thing they can do if they're against the earmarks is ask that the money that they've gotten, the hundreds of millions they've gotten in pork-barrel projects, not be spent. A lot of that money's not spent," said McCain.

The Arizona senator prides himself on having never requested an earmark for his state.

McCain had urged his Democratic rivals to reveal the earmarks they've asked for and turn back the money that hasn't been spent.

Approved earmarks are public record, but information about earmark requests that do not get approved can come only from the legislators themselves. Video Watch the battle over earmark ban »

Clinton received $342 million in earmarks last year, ranking her 10th highest in the Senate, according to the budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. But as of Thursday, the Clinton campaign had not released details on how much she requested for 2007 and what it was for.

The senator "is proud of the investments in New York she has secured," according to her spokesman, Philippe Reines. But she believes the one-year ban "will allow a hard look at how more sunlight and transparency can be brought to this process," Reines added.

Obama in fiscal year 2008 secured $98 million in funding for Illinois projects, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. Information released Thursday by the Obama campaign indicates he requested $311 million in earmarks for the same year.

Also according to information released Thursday by the Obama camp, the Illinois senator had 138 earmark requests for the 2007 fiscal year.

His total requested funding was about $330 million. His average request was about $2.4 million, with the largest request being $62 million intended to modify a Boeing 747 aircraft to capture infrared images of the Earth.

In a statement this week, Obama complained earmarks are doled out based on a lawmaker's seniority, not the merit of a project, and that many of the projects "fail to address the real needs of our country."

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Earmark opponents pushed for the ban after watching Congress approve an increasing number of special projects in recent years.

Last year, Congress approved 12,884 earmarks. While the budget watchdog group said that figure is down from an all-time high in 2005, it still represents more than $18 billion in spending. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Alexander Marquardt and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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