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Earmarks look to be making a comeback

Earmarks look to be making a comeback

House Democrats are hinting that they may bring back earmarks when they take back control of the lower chamber next year.

Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency This week: Trump's grip on Hill allies faces test Trump signs .3T relief, spending package MORE (D-N.Y.), the incoming chairwoman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, wrote her Democratic colleagues and hinted that earmarks — or “congressionally directed spending” — would be making a comeback next year with Democrats in power.

The Democratic Caucus should “review procedures and work with the Senate to determine the most effective way to carry out our constitutional responsibilities through congressionally-directed spending,” Lowey wrote in her letter seeking the Appropriations gavel.

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Republicans banned earmarks after they took back the majority in 2010, but some are now rallying to overturn the eight-year ban on a practice critics have derided as “pork-barrel spending.”

Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersOvernight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home Top Republican congressional aide resigns, rips GOP lawmakers who objected to Biden win READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results MORE (R-Ala.) and other GOP earmark defenders are planning to introduce an amendment Tuesday evening to lift the GOP conference-wide rule that prohibits Republican lawmakers from directing spending for pet projects in their congressional districts, GOP sources told The Hill.

House Republicans are slated to vote on proposed rules changes in a closed-door meeting on Thursday.

“Congressman Rogers has always been a vocal supporter of our Article One constitutional authorities and that doesn't change just because we are in the minority,” said Rogers spokeswoman Shea Miller.

Earlier this year, President TrumpDonald TrumpBlinken holds first calls as Biden's secretary of State Senators discussing Trump censure resolution Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' MORE suggested that Democrats and Republicans should reinstate earmarks to make it easier to pass legislation. And some GOP senators, including Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate GOP signals it's likely to acquit Trump for second time Just five GOP senators vote Trump impeachment trial is constitutional Portman's exit underscores Republican identity crisis MORE of Alaska, have said recently they are all for bringing back the practice.

“It depends on whether House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House can come to an agreement,” said a House Democratic aide. “If they can, it is very likely to happen, but it’s hard to predict how such talks would go.”

Exactly two years ago, House Republicans, having retained the majority, were on the cusp of resurrecting earmarks during a similar vote on GOP rules changes.

But at the last minute, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Revising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices MORE (R-Wis.), an earmarks critic, nixed the vote after some Republicans complained that restoring earmarks would create bad optics for the party so soon after the election of Donald Trump. Trump’s anti-Washington campaign slogan had been: “Drain the Swamp.”

The House Rules Committee held hearings on earmarks, but the issue went nowhere.

Earmarks supporters have argued that lawmakers are more knowledgeable about what projects are needed in their districts rather than leaving those decisions to executive-branch bureaucrats.

“I know first hand when you have to depend on some department up here in Washington, they just don’t know your district. Every district is different. There’s nobody who knows it like the member,” said Rep. Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Congress eyes 1-week stopgap, longer session to reach deal Alabama Republican becomes third House member to test positive for COVID-19 this week MORE (R-Ala.), who is running to be the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee.

“If they are done fairly and transparently and they are done in daylight, earmarks can be a very positive thing,” he said.