Now that they’re back in charge of the House, some Democrats are pushing for the return of earmarks, which allow lawmakers to direct money to specific projects, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports.
The revival is driven in part by concerns that Congress has given up too much authority to the president by allowing executive agencies to determine spending priorities. Earmarks also make it easier for lawmakers to make deals and support bipartisan legislation, some experts say.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) said that a majority of Democrats support the earmark revival, and that some Republican do, too. One prominent Republican who supports them is Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who said, “This is something that was clearly set out in the Constitution as the role of the legislative branch. Nowhere does it say, you think about what these priorities are going to be and then give it up to the [federal] agencies to determine what the priority is.”
Earmarks were banned in the wake of the Tea Party revolution that swept Republicans into power in 2010. Earmarks had been tarnished by overuse and scandal, culminating in the Jack Abramoff affair that led to the imprisonment of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), who pled guilty to directing federal spending in exchange for bribes. The 2009 omnibus spending package contained roughly 9,000 earmarks worth about $5 billion.
If earmarks are brought back, though, one thing will be different. Since the term has become a “dirty word,” they will be referred to as “congressionally directed spending,” according to The Hill.