WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Texas Republican congressman, who with two other colleagues proposed a revision of the 2011 ban on legislative earmarks, withdrew his proposal at Wednesday’s House Republican Conference meeting.
“Today, Speaker Paul Ryan pledged to create a transparent and accountable process to restore Congress’s constitutional spending authority by the end of the first quarter of 2017,” said Rep. John Culberson, who al0ng with Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Ala.) and Rep. Thomas Rooney (R.-Fla.), sought a return to the practice of directing federal agencies to spend money with detailed line items — otherwise known as earmarks.
The congressman said he decided to propose the rule change because he was thwarted in his attempts to have more funding directed towards enforcing the southern border and his attempt to have the Pentagon build a missile defense facility on the East Coast. In each case, he was told that his instructions were banned as earmarks.
Another example is how the federal government uses funds for dredging to support maritime commerce at the port of Long Beach, California, where the residents and voters are Democrats, yet the federal government ignores silt built up at ports in Republican parts of country, he said.
The experience convinced him to end the earmark ban and put the full responsibility and authority for spending back in the Congress, as stated in the Constitution’s Article 1, Section 9, he said.
“You’ve got to be able to tell these agencies what to do,” Culberson said.
“Virtually every problem that you have seen in government is the result of unelected, unaccountable, invisible bureaucrats making decisions instead of elected officials,” he added.
The ban on earmarks is considered a crowning achievement of Speaker John A. Boehner (R.-Ohio), who worked to eliminate the practice from his first day in Congress in 1991.
House Republicans are in meetings in the third week of November to vote on their leadership for the next session of Congress and their proposed rule changes. The leadership posts, such as Speaker and other officers of the chamber, and the rules do not become official until the new House membership is sworn in and the whole House votes to make them official in January.
Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert told reporters Wednesday before the start of the day’s conference meeting that he supports the return of earmarks.
Gohmert said the ban was supposed to be temporary, but has continued.
While the concept of the ban sounds right, in reality the lack of budget line items and detailed instructions from Congress freed President Barack Obama and his administration to spend as they saw fit, he said.
Without earmarks, Gohmert said members of Congress had to resort to official letters requesting an agency work on a specific project or priority–and those letters were ignored.
“In effect, what we did was give the Obama administration sacks of money and told them to spend it however they wanted to,” Gohmert said.
Culberson told Breitbart News that Gohmert and other conservatives concerned about congressional prerogatives supported him in the conference meeting, but there needs to be a better process for lifting the ban on earmarks, so that Americans understand the conservative case for ending the ban.
Ryan understood his reasons for restoring congressional control of spending, so he agreed to pull the measure that had spun up a firestorm among Capitol Hill conservatives and outside groups, he said.
“My colleagues and I agreed to withdraw our amendment based on the Speaker’s promise because we are confident we can develop a method to handle directed congressional spending in a way that gives constituents confidence that their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent effectively,” he said.