Rep. Michele Bachmann speaks at a rally outside the Capitol Monday.

Rep. Michele Bachmann speaks at a rally outside the Capitol Monday.

When is an earmark not an earmark? 

Rep. Michele Bachmann supports a ban on earmarks in Congress, but she thinks that some transportation projects should redefined so they aren’t considered earmarks.

Bachmann told the Star Tribune she supports a “redefinition” of what an earmark is, because, she said: “Advocating for transportation projects for ones district in my mind does not equate to an earmark.”

“I don’t believe that building roads and bridges and interchanges should be considered an earmark,” Bachmann said. “There’s a big difference between funding a tea pot museum and a bridge over a vital waterway.”

Bachmann, along with Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kline, has taken a pledge not to accept earmarks. Bachmann, who did solicit some earmarks when she first came to Congress, has been outspoken in pushing House Republicans to continue an earmark moratorium enacted last year.

Senate Republicans also could support a moratorium, after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reversed his position today and said he backed the ban. They will vote on it this week.

Bachmann has not previously discussed changing the definition of earmarks to separate out district transportation projects. The Minnesota Republican said she talked about the idea with Rep. John Mica, in line to take over for Rep. Jim Oberstar as Transportation Committee chairman, about making the distinction.

Bachmann, for instance, backs federal support for the Stillwater Lift Bridge, which she blamed the Obama administration for not funding.

As Congress returned Monday for its lame duck session, earmarks were among the most contentious issues up for debate.

Bachmann was the featured speaker at a rally on Monday outside the Capitol sponsored by conservative-leaning group Americans for Prosperity, which is calling for an earmarks ban. At the rally, Bachmann declared to cheers that she was nominating the Tea Party to win Time’s “Person of the Year.”

“You are the people who changed the world the first Tuesday in November,” Bachmann said. “You did it.”