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 LoweyDems advance bill defying Trump State Department cuts Overnight Defense: Trump says no plans to send 120K troops to counter Iran | Pentagon, coalition general at odds over Iranian threat | Spending bill includes M to study Space Force Defense spending bill would limit Pentagon's ability to shift money after border wall transfers 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 RogersTrump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact FBI official sees 'tide change' in how platforms handle extremist content America must leap at opportunities to bolster national security in space 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 John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE suggested that Democrats and Republicans should reinstate earmarks to make it easier to pass legislation. And some GOP senators, including Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law Bipartisan senators unveil measure to end surprise medical bills 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 RyanAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 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 AderholtDems advance bill defying Trump State Department cuts Maryland raises legal tobacco purchasing age to 21 Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age 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.