There was a time in Rep. Connie Mack’s career when his website proudly highlighted a hometown paper article praising him for “bringing home the federal bacon.”
That was so 2008.
Today, Republican voters want a diet. And Mack, a candidate for U.S. Senate, is fending off his fellow Republican opponents who are bashing him for voting for billions of dollars in earmarks since his election to Congress in 2004.
Mack says he’s “proud” of the earmarks he submitted for his Southwest Florida district — namely for widening Interstate 75. But he says he supports a new moratorium on earmarks because times have changed and the budget process had been abused by others.
“We fought for a fair return on tax dollars for my district. But certainly, we’re at a different time and place right now. And that is a $15 trillion debt that, with the passage of the increasing of the debt ceiling, will be $17 trillion,” he said. “We’re in a very dangerous place.”
Mack says the real big-spending culprit is Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who voted for President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus and healthcare plans. Mack didn’t name his critical Republican opponents, George LeMieux and Adam Hasner, who have had government-spending issues of their own.
Mack’s on-again, off-again relationship with earmarking is a lesson in how Congress works, and how Republican candidates have had to adjust to an increasingly conservative electorate.