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House Democrats mull restoring earmarks in spending bills

House Democrats mull restoring earmarks in spending bills
© Greg Nash

House Democrats met on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of restoring the use of earmarks for appropriations bills, potentially allowing members to secure funding for specific projects in their districts.

A meeting of appropriators on Tuesday afternoon found general support for "increased Congressional involvement in funding community projects and for reforms to ensure public trust in such a process," a House Democratic aide said.

In 2011, then-President Obama vowed to veto any spending bill that included earmarks, which have often been seen as leading to wasteful spending on pet projects. Since then, a number of lawmakers from both parties have called for a repeal of the earmark ban.

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Some argue that earmarks help garner bipartisan support for bills by giving individual members of the minority party stronger reasons to support spending legislation. 

Such projects account for a tiny fraction of federal spending, supporters say, arguing that officials familiar with local needs are better equipped to make spending decisions that bureaucrats in the executive branch.

Democrats also say that new rules and limitations imposed on the earmarks would ensure transparency and accountability in a way that didn't exist with previous earmarks.

Appropriators are set to continue meeting this week to hammer out specifics, including timing, for reintroducing earmarks.