House GOP still divided over earmark report

A select group of House Republicans tasked to make recommendations on reforming the earmark process are divided and have been unable to agree to a final report.

The division means the report will be further delayed past the Feb. 16 deadline originally set by Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFrom learning on his feet to policy director Is Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush MORE (R-Ohio), who told reporters on Tuesday that the Select Committee on Earmark Reform would release its recommendations this week.

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFrom learning on his feet to policy director Is Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush MORE extended the deadline to give the panel more time to iron out the wrinkles. At a press conference last week the leader announced that the report would be ready for release before March 6th. The select panel's work has gone under the radar likely due to the series of crises saturating the news.

Members disagree over whether the report should recommend that the GOP conference end earmarking, even as GOP Senators and Democrats continue to put aside money in appropriations bill for local projects.
Several lawmakers on the 10-member committee, formed last November, told The Hill that every panelist has distinct views on the matter and they have been unable to agree on what recommendations to include in the report.

"We all have differences of opinion as to what we should do," task force panelist Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) told The Hill in an interview. “How do you make it binding? It ought to be something that applies to Republicans and Democrats House and Senate and the administration if they are going to reform the earmark process. All of us need to be involved in this process if we’re going to reform the earmark process.”

Even if House Republicans as a conference decide to do away with earmarks, it's doubful Democrats will adopt the GOP recommendations. Boehner has asked Democrats to appoint members of the majority to the earmark reform panel, but they refused. Democrats also rejected a GOP recommendation in 2008 to place a moratorium on earmarks.

Still, a GOP conference decision to drop earmarks could make a strong political point for Republicans at a time when they are in a deep minority and are trying to highlight their differences with Democrats.

Earmarks remain popular with members of both parties. An omnibus spending bill approved by the House last week included $3.8 billion in earmarks, nearly half of which were sponsored by Republicans.
Select Committee member Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ariz.) said that in order to make the earmark reform meaningful, his party would have to be willing to forgo any and all earmarks, regardless of what the Democrats do.

The anti-earmark crusader notorious for challenging individual pork projects on the House floor, however, was pessimistic that House Republicans would unilaterally give up earmarks.

“There’s some of us who think this only matters if it’s something that we are all prepared to go alone on,” Flake said. “With the omnibus last week, I thought it was completely devastating ... immediately everybody says ‘same old, same old,’ and they are right.”

Select Committee on Earmark Reform Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersShimkus announces he will stick with plan to retire after reconsidering Bipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill DC's liaison to rock 'n' roll MORE (R-Wash.) was optimistic that the report would be released sooner rather than later, despite the “very strong opinions around the table.” She said that makes her job as chairwoman “festive” and “feisty.”

According to an aide with McMorris Rodgers, the select panel is set to meet with members of the GOP leadership this week.

The panel was tasked by Boehner to deliver a report “with recommendations for changing Washington’s broken spending practices.”

Boehner made sure to select ten-members who represent the GOP conference's varied stances on earmark spending: two members of the powerful appropriations committee, several members of authorizing committees, the former ranking member on the ethics committee and several members of the fiscally conservative Republican Study Committee. The Select Committee on Earmark has met 5-6 times since mid-December.

House Republican Reps. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyLawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families How centrist Dems learned to stop worrying and love impeachment On The Money: Senate passes first spending package as shutdown looms | Treasury moves to roll back Obama rules on offshore tax deals | Trade deal talks manage to weather Trump impeachment storm MORE (Texas), Judy Biggert (Ill.), Randy ForbesJames (Randy) Randy ForbesToo much ‘can do,’ not enough candor Trump makes little headway filling out Pentagon jobs Why there's only one choice for Trump's Navy secretary MORE (Va.), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), John Mica (Fla.), Zach Wamp (Tenn.) serve on the panel with McMorris Rodgers, Simpson and Flake.