Democrats hope to revive earmarks, a practice Republicans eliminated over concerns it would lead to graft.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriation committees, will announce in the following weeks that Democrats will reinstate earmarks, also known as “member-directed spending” in next fiscal year’s spending bills.
Republicans ended earmarks when they took control of the House majority after the 2010 midterm elections. Alaska’s “bridge to nowhere” became a prime example of congressional earmarks run amok.
Democrats contend they will make earmarks more transparent and disclose each earmark’s details, which member requested it, and who would receive the earmark. Under the reform, lawmakers cannot request earmarks for which they have financial ties. There will be no earmarks for for-profit institutions, and earmarks will be limited to state and local governments. And Congress will limit how much lawmakers can spend with earmarks.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) argues Congress should bring back earmarks to give lawmakers a personal stake in spending bills. Doing so would make it easier to whip lawmakers to vote for the spending bills, as Democrats maintain a very slim majority in the House and have a 50-50 split in the Senate.
Hoyer also said rank-and-file lawmakers know their local needs more than many appropriation committee representatives.
DeLauro will likely announce the spending reform this week when Congress returns from the President’s Day recess.
“Chair DeLauro has been clear that she supports Member-directed funding for community projects,” Evan Hollander, the communications director for the House Appropriations Committee, said.
He added, “She is working through the details of a reformed process, and will share additional information with Members and the public in the coming weeks.