Bringing back congressional earmarks

With Democrats set to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner reports on their plan to revive a discarded piece of past federal budgets.

House Democrats are eager to revive the notorious earmark, which is any provision that allocates cash to a pet project in a particular congressional district, when they take back the majority in January.

There is no House rule banning earmarks, but the Republican majority curtailed the practice in 2011 following allegations of corruption and years of bad publicity about projects like Alaska’s “bridge to nowhere” that came with a $320 million price tag.

Now that Democrats are poised to take charge in January, there is nothing to stop them from inserting earmarks in the fiscal 2020 spending bills next year, and lawmakers said they are hoping to soon get a piece of the federal spending pie for specific needs in their districts.

“I hope they come back,” Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., who will take over as majority whip next year, told the Washington Examiner. “I was against them ever leaving.”

Clyburn and other proponents believe the earmark moratorium imposed by Republicans usurped the authority of Congress to direct spending.

Republicans and Democrats alike have argued that the earmark ban left directed spending up to the executive branch, which does not have the same ability or motivation to fund the needs of individual congressional districts. Lawmakers want the power back in order to give them more control over federal spending for their constituents.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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