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In the battle over an across-the-board earmark ban that is being waged between establishment Republicans led by Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and the teahadist wing of the party led by Jim DeMint (R-SC), James Inhofe (R-OK) has emerged as the public face of the McConnell-led faction and he is working furiously to defeat the measure slated to be voted on next Tuesday when the Republican Conference meets. In an op-ed that is appearing in a number of publications today, Inhofe says:

... a ban on earmarks doesn’t save one dime. It does, however, do three things: 1) It trashes the Constitution and violates our oath of office; 2) It cedes Congress’s power to authorize and appropriate to the president, and 3) It gives cover to big spending.  [...]

It is hard to imagine that our founders were misguided when they gave Congress, those closest to the will of the people, the power of the purse under Article 1 of the Constitution.

The emphasis on the Constitution and ceding power to President Obama looks like another attempt by Inhofe to win over the tea party wing of the GOP after his first try failed miserably -- which isn't surprising given that this death match over less than 1% of the federal budget has become the litmus test for teahadists, with their supporters issuing a warning about primary challenges for any Republican who doesn't publicly support the ban. But apparently Inhofe missed that memo, because:

Moments after the Tea Party Patriots issued a missive to 200,000 members backing the earmark ban, Inhofe tried to reach one of the group’s leaders on her cell phone. When he couldn’t connect, he tried again. When that was unsuccessful, his staff sent text messages urging her to call him back.

Finally, one of the group’s co-founders, Mark Meckler, returned Inhofe’s phone call Wednesday. It was a brief conversation  where Inhofe said he wanted to provide Meckler’s group with an essay ... he urged Meckler to give the essay to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who is the chairman of the tea party-aligned Freedom Works.

Meckler said in an interview that the phone call was “bizarre."

... the senator had yet to speak to reach Armey, who couldn’t be reached Thursday afternoon.

How embarrassing. And a sign of just how deep the rift is between the two groups.

What we're witnessing here is the inevitable split between the pragmatists and the purists within the Republican Party, something that we will see more and more of as the battle for the soul power in the GOP continues. And according to the de facto leader of the tea party wing:

The Tea Party movement is just the "tip of the iceberg" of political change and a looming "war in Washington," South Carolina's conservative Republican Senator Jim DeMint said on Thursday.

And when it's war within the Republican Party that we're talking about, one can only say, that's a "bring it on" we can believe in.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Nov 12, 2010 at 02:02 PM PST.

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