Capitol Hill conservatives and outside groups are opposing a stealthy effort by House Republicans to kill the 2011 ban on funding earmarks.
The critical vote to end or preserve the earmark reform comes Wednesday, when the conference sets rules for the next session of Congress.
“Any Member of Congress who votes to bring back old-school, back-room, pork-barrel spending through earmarks is putting him or herself firmly against the American people who just elected Donald Trump president, as he campaigned emphatically on the issue of draining the swamp in Washington,” said Jenny Beth Martin, the leader and co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots.
Martin said she was reacting to reports that Texas Rep. John Culberson, Alabama Rep. Michael Rogers, and Florida Rep. Thomas Rooney plan to end the ban on the practice by congressmen and senators of inserting specific language into legislation that directs federal agencies to spend funds on projects or items. The practice goes by the Capitol Hill slang of “earmarks,” and the ban was the legacy of Speaker John A. Boehner (R.-Ohio), who returned to public life in 2015.
The Tea Party Patriots leader said the effort to restore earmarks raised a number of questions: “Did they learn nothing at all from these elections? People are tired of business as usual in D.C. After this historic election, are they really going to go back to business as usual in their first votes? This is not a show of good faith; it’s a show of callous cynicism and hypocrisy.”
Culberson told Breitbart News that the current rules leave too much authority in the hands of the federal agencies to the detriment of the intent of Congress.
“We are not repealing the earmark ban,” the Texan said.
“We are restoring the spending power that the Founding Fathers entrusted to Congress, and making the process totally transparent from start to finish. This amendment ensures that our elected officials control how our taxpayer dollars are spent and not unelected bureaucrats in the backrooms of federal agencies,” he said.
“This amendment is meant to increase transparency and responsibility, simple as that. It restores Congressional authority and brings spending into the sunshine by ensuring that the people know which member is sponsoring the request, they initiate in committee, and that the appropriation does not increase total spending for any fiscal year,” he said.
“Unelected bureaucrats are currently spending the people’s hard-earned tax dollars and they are not accountable to the people, the congressman said. “This amendment restores Congress’s constitutional responsibilities.”
Breitbart News made office visits to both Rogers and Rooney during business hours, but they did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.
Co-founder and Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus Rep. James Jordan (R.-Ohio) told Breitbart he was not happy with the effort to undo the earmark ban.
“The takeaway from last week’s election is that the American people are tired of business as usual in Washington,” Jordan said. “That means come January, no earmarks or other special deals for special interests, period.”
FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon said, “It’s incomprehensible that House Republicans, a week after voters sent a strong message to the Washington political establishment, would bring back earmarks – the currency of corruption.”
Brandon said, “Earmarks became synonymous with cronyism and corruption in Congress, with Members handing out funding for the politically connected, and House Republicans were right to ban the practice in the first place.”
FreedomWorks, which is a Washington-based logistics and policy hub for Tea Party and other conservatives activists, was a part of the efforts to ban earmarks in previous Congresses.
“We hope that the House Republican Conference will reject this proposal to bring back earmarks and pursue a bold conservative agenda that reflects the will of conservative grassroots activists and voters,” Brandon said.
Club for Growth president David McIntosh said he is strongly against the return of earmarks.
“This is a test of whether Republicans are listening to the American people, he said.
“It’s been barely a week since voters sent a resounding rejection of Washington insider politics, and yet House Republicans are already on the verge of proving they’re tone deaf,” he said.
“Earmarks represent the worst of inside-the-beltway gamesmanship, by enticing Members to vote for big-government bills with the lure of getting tax dollars for big projects back in their districts,” he said.
“House Republicans banned earmarks in 2011, but some have been trying to get back their spending power ever since. Voters believed that Republicans would ‘drain the swamp,’ not redirect it for their own benefit. Any effort to restore this kind of cronyism should be flatly rejected,” McIntosh said.