Detractors of the so-called tea party like to minimize its effect on the political debate, but on Monday the movement scored a major victory on Capitol Hill.
In what could "cement a dramatic change in the ways of Congress," according to The Associated Press, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would support a moratorium on earmarks.
Stopping earmarks -- pork projects added to existing spending bills with little or no scrutiny -- has been a top priority for fiscally conservative Republicans and their ideological brethren in the popular tea party movement.
Sen. McConnell had previously defended earmarking and had hinted he might not heed calls from within his own party to advocate for a ban on the practice. But on Monday, he changed his mind.
"Nearly every day that the Senate's been in session for the past two years, I have come down to this spot and said that Democrats are ignoring the wishes of the American people," he announced from the Senate floor. "When it comes to earmarks, I won't be guilty of the same thing."
House GOP leaders had already endorsed an earmark ban. Couple that with President Obama's admission this month that he had looked the other way on too many pork projects and the pressure will be immense on congressional Democrats to exert a modicum of self-control when it comes to spending.
Sen. McConnell's decision is also a heartening indication that Republicans realize they can no longer campaign as fiscal watchdogs but govern as big spenders.
"I know the good that has come from the projects I have helped support throughout my state. I don't apologize for them," Sen. McConnell said. "But there is simply no doubt that the abuse of this practice has caused Americans to view it as a symbol of the waste and the out-of-control spending that every Republican in Washington is determined to fight."
It's about time. Now engage the battle.