Nelson says there's a place for such spending and pointed to a project in Rubio's backyard: dredging the Port of Miami.A ban on earmarks sound like a great thing on the campaign trail, especially to small-government teabaggers, but Nelson points out just why earmarks can be a good thing - they can increase trade, jobs, economic activity. Sure some earmarks are bad, but others can be very rewarding. Rubio unfortunately rode into Washington with a simplistic view adopted from the fringe of his party and now he is going to be forced to make tough decisions, and it sounds as if he will sacrifice the needs of his state for the needs of a few.
Rubio, who campaigned against earmarks and drew the enthusiastic support of tea party activists opposed to government spending, acknowledged Nelson's point.
``I want Florida to be fairly represented in this process,'' Rubio said.
``On the other hand, I think this country owes $13.5 trillion and growing and we have to deal with that very seriously. If we can't deal with the issue of earmarks, how are we going to deal with $13 trillion? It's not an easy issue but we'll confront it in a productive way.''
Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based watchdog group, said this fiscal year's federal budget contains nearly 9,500 congressional earmarks worth $15.9 billion.
Nelson said he told Rubio that if it wasn't for earmarking, the state might not be line for a nuclear aircraft carrier at Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville.
``If I didn't attend to that appropriation, the Virginia delegation was going to eliminate a carrier coming into Florida,'' Nelson said.
And Nelson pointed out that ports in Miami and Jacksonville are counting on earmarks to help them dredge their channels to prepare for larger cargo ships coming through the Panama Canal in 2015.
``That is huge to Florida, to trade, to jobs, to economic activity that all of those big cargo ships coming through the Panama Canal come to Florida ports, intead of going to Savannah and Charlestown,'' Nelson said. ``Those are the hard realities when we talk of earmarks.''
Earmarks make up a tiny percentage of government expenditures but they are easy to vilify. Should there be no ban on earmarks anytime soon, I wonder if Rubio would still abstain from the practice...