Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell's announcement to support a ban on earmarks does two significant things.
First, it fuses a major Tea Party issue into a GOP establishment agenda item. Until today, it was GOP Sen. Jim DeMint -- a Tea Party favorite -- who had absorbed much of the spotlight for pushing a ban on earmarks. But now it is arguably a "GOP leadership position."
Prior to McConnell's floor speech, it wasn't clear how Republicans would vote tomorrow on a self imposed earmark ban offered by DeMint. Now, GOP leadership aides suggest it will pass, but only because McConnell is on board.
So the story of infighting within Republican ranks -- Tea Party vs. GOP establishment -- has vanished. But who gets the credit for uniting Republicans: DeMint or McConnell?
The second thing McConnell's move does is that it pits a united Republican front and President Obama against Senate Democrats, who will still have the ability to earmark. (House Democrats won't have much power under Republican rule next year.)
Obama voiced support for earmark reform over the weekend saying in his weekly address, "I agree with those Republican and Democratic members of Congress who've recently said that in these challenging days, we can't afford what are called earmarks."
The question now becomes: How will Senate Democrats respond?