House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told House Democrats this week that earmarking will be revived this Congress and that the effort will be bipartisan, according to a report in POLITICO.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is reportedly working on a “reformed process” for allowing lawmakers to insert targeted spending projects into larger bills in order to secure something of value for their district. DeLauro is expected to change earmarks to avoid potential misuse, including banning private corporations from receiving earmarks.
Earmarks were commonplace in legislation for decades but became a campaign issue in the early 2000s after a series of scandals in which lawmakers from both parties were caught securing earmarks not for their districts but to enrich themselves. When Republicans took control of the House in 2011, earmarks were banned and, with the urging of then-President Obama, the Democratic Senate followed suit. Senate Republicans added a permanent ban on earmarks to their conference rules last spring.
Hoyer and other proponents of earmarks have said that reinstating earmarks with more strict controls would guard against criticism of wasteful, “pork-barrel” spending flowing to lawmakers’ pet projects. Earmarks that have a lawmaker’s name attached provide greater public accountability, supporters say. For Hoyer and other congressional leaders, earmarks are tools to keep their party together on important votes and can help some of their more vulnerable members win reelection.
It’s unclear where Senate Republicans will come down on the issue of reinstating earmarks. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was never personally opposed to earmarks but could see political advantage in using the issue to attack Democratic candidates in the next election cycle.