35 GOP Senators, Representatives Blast Democrats’ Bringing Back Earmarks

March 11, 2021 Updated: March 11, 2021

Bringing back earmarks in federal spending is the worst “way to build back trust in Congress” because they are a quasi-legalized form of bribery” that “enables Washington’s spending addiction.”

That’s according to 35 Republican members of the Senate and House of Representatives who signed a March 10 letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

“Members want Congress to help their communities, particularly now as the pandemic exposed so many inequalities and needs,” DeLauro said in a statement announcing the return. “Community Project Funding [CPF] will allow Members to put their deep, first-hand understanding of the needs of their communities to work to help the people we represent.”

DeLauro said that beginning in 2022, all members of Congress will be able to designate up to 10 earmarks, or CPFs, each year. Names of earmark sponsors and details of the projects to be funded are to be made public.

Leahy has spoken favorably to a return of earmarks, but details remain to be worked out between Senate and House appropriators.

Earmarks are special-interest spending provisions inserted into major appropriation bills and couched in vague legislative language that often make them extremely difficult to identify. The spending not infrequently benefits, directly or indirectly, a congressman’s family member, former staff aide, or campaign donor.

The letter-signers want no part of a return to earmarks.

“As you know, the 2000s were marred by infamous earmarks like the Alaskan ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’ an indoor rainforest in Iowa, a Teapot Museum, and absurd research projects like analyzing Goth culture. The wide-spread practice of earmarks was corrupting,” the signers told Leahy and DeLauro.

The move to return earmarks is tantamount to using tax dollars to buy votes on the floors of the Senate and House, according to the Republican signers.

“Earmarks were used to buy and sell votes and reward favors. Earmarks brought discredit on the House and Senate and ultimately led to several Members of Congress being convicted on corruption charges. In order to restore public trust in Congress, the practice of earmarking was officially put on a moratorium in 2011 under Republican leadership,” the signers wrote.

Pressure has been growing in recent years to bring back earmarks as a way of overcoming the hyperpartisan gridlock that often paralyzes Congress, forcing frequent resorts to continue resolutions that force congressmen to vote for them or see the federal government shut down. Democrats are, for the most part, enthusiastic about the return, as are some Republicans.

But bringing back earmarks is still a bad idea, the signers told Leahy and DeLauro.

“Nothing epitomizes what’s wrong with Washington more than pork-barrel spending in the form of congressional earmarks. According to the taxpayer watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, Congress has doled out more than 111,000 earmarks worth more than $375 billion since 1991,” the signers wrote.

“Earmarks are also used as the grease to help enable Washington’s spending addiction. They have been used as a quasi-legalized form of bribery to entice members of Congress to approve large spending packages that increase our deficit and explode the national debt.

“In an era of trillion-dollar deficits and a $27 trillion debt, it is hard to imagine how we will ever be able to restore any form of financial responsibility if big spenders in the halls of Congress are able to use earmarks to keep spending money we don’t have.

“We cannot imagine a worse way to build back trust in Congress than to resurrect a system that has been roundly rejected as corruptive and wasteful for decades.”

Republican senators signing the letter include Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

Republican representatives signing the letter include Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Chip Roy (R-Texas), Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Mary Miller (R-Ill.), Marjorie Greene (R-Ga.), Bob Good (R-Va.), Greg Steube (R-Fla.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Mark Green (R-Tenn.), Lance Gooden (R-Texas), Matthew Rosendale (R-Mont.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.).

Notably absent from the new process is an explicit ban on CPFs that benefit campaign donors or favored special interests such as environmental activists, oil and gas operators, and defense industry contractors.

The new earmark procedures include a requirement that no vote be taken by the committee or one of its subcommittees until a CPF request has been publicly available at least 48 hours.

Congress routinely waives similar rules it currently has that are intended to give every member at least three days to read proposed bills before voting on them.

Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc