Washington (CNN) - Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the chief, old-bull defenders of earmarks, bowed to growing pressure from the public and his fellow GOP senators, and announced Monday he would support a ban on earmarks by Republican lawmakers in the new Congress.
"I have come down to this spot and said the Democrats are ignoring the wishes of the American people," McConnell said in a surprise announcement on the Senate floor. "When it comes to earmarks, I won't be guilty of the same thing."
Senate Republicans will meet privately Tuesday to vote on a non-binding moratorium on earmarks–a move championed by South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint who is a favorite of the debt-conscious Tea Party.
House Republicans already have a ban in place and are expected to carry it over to the new Congress.
For years, McConnell and other senior members have defended their right to direct spending decisions and not leave all those choices to faceless bureaucrats in Washington.
In a powerfully delivered speech, the normally placid Kentuckian acknowledged his personal conflict over the issue.
"Make no mistake, I know the good that has some from the projects I have helped support throughout my state. I don't apologize for them. But there is simply no doubt that the abuse of this practice has caused
Americans to view it as a symbol of the wasted and the out-of-control spending that every Republican in Washington is determined to fight," he said.