In a private meeting of GOP lawmakers, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) proposed overturning the House and Senate ban on earmarks in order to push past legislative logjams:
I just got up … and did it because I was mad because they were talking about how we can’t get 218 votes, Rogers told Reuters, referring to the minimum of 218 votes needed to pass legislation in the 435-member House.
There was a lot of applause when I made my comments. I had a few freshmen boo me, but that’s okay. By and large it was very well embraced.
Mr. Rogers is not the only Republican to advance the idea of overturning the ban on earmarks; GOP Representatives Louie Gohmert and Kay Granger also supported the idea, say those who were in the meeting.
“We can be specific without having it be crony capitalism, monuments to me, bridges to nowhere,” Gohmert said.
Others propose limiting earmarks so that they only go to local or state government-backed projects or universities. And reforms should also break the links between campaign contributions and earmarked projects, members say.
In pitching earmarks, Gohmert and other Republican lawmakers and aides lament that the ban has been a boon to Democratic President Barack Obama, whose administration can still dole out projects as it sees fit.
“I think there’s a way that it can be done that we take back the purse strings that the Constitution gives us without just handing sacks of money to the president,” Gohmert said.
Another supporter of earmarks is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who has proudly defended the practice: “I’ve done earmarks all my career, and I’m happy I’ve done earmarks all my career. They’ve helped my state, and they’ve helped different projects around the country.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner, who originally pushed for the ban on earmarks, says he believes the ban was and is a good idea. “The House did the right thing in instituting an earmark ban, and the American people strongly support it,” a Boehner spokesman said in response to questions.
Still, Mr. Boehner said he is considering forming a committee to review earmark reform.