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House Lawmakers Discuss Bringing Back Earmarks

by Countable | 1.18.18

The House Rules Committee held hearings Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the merits and problems posed by bringing earmarks back to Congress. The controversial spending provisions have been banned since 2011 when congressional Republicans and former President Barack Obama did away with the practice.

Earmarks refer to provisions in spending bills that are targeted to a specific state, locality, congressional district, or entity that allocate funding in a way other than a legal or administrative formula or a competitive award process. Perhaps the most infamous example of an earmark was the $400 million "bridge to nowhere", which sought to connect the town of Ketchikan, Alaska by road to its airport on a neighboring island that had 50 residents. According to a 2006 CRS report, the total value of federal earmarks that year totalled $67 billion

Critics of earmarks say that they lead to inefficient and wasteful spending, and in some cases create ethical problems for the lawmakers advancing them. Proponents argue that by focusing spending in certain areas, it’s easier for Congress to pass legislation because they can use earmarks to entice members to vote for a bill they’d otherwise oppose.

Congressman Don Young (R-AK), the longest-serving member of Congress who was responsible for the "bridge to nowhere", has been a strong advocate for earmarks. During Wednesday’s debate he claimed to “have the votes” to bring back earmarks in the face of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) opposition.

On that note he may find a sympathetic ear across the aisle, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she supports bringing back earmarks "on a limited basis" with transparency requirements such as posting earmark requests on member websites. Her deputy, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said he’d encourage Democrats to support bringing back earmarks.

But any effort to restore earmarks would require both the House and Senate to vote to change their internal rules prohibiting them — a politically risky vote when senators voted to reaffirm the earmark ban at the start of the 115th Congress. It’s possible, but not certain, that the Rules Committee will make a recommendation about whether earmarks should be restored, but if Congress moves to bring them back we’ll have more here at Countable.

Do you think earmarks help Congress get things done? Do they promote wasteful spending and raise ethical issues? Tell your lawmakers what you think and join the conversation in the comments below!

— Eric Revell

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(Photo Credit: Sunnya343 / iStock)

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(117)
  • Heather
    01/19/2018
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    No. Let’s bring ethics back to government.

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  • Claude
    01/19/2018
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    No, no, no stop this discussion of graft and corrupted practices in Congress. Stop talking about it, just say not now, not ever, not in America.

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  • Lynda
    01/19/2018
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    NO EARMARKS!

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  • Judith
    01/19/2018
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    ANY LAW MAKER THAT WANTS TO BRING BACK THE FISCALLY IRRESPONSIBLE AND DEMOCRACY UNDER CUTTING USE OF EAR MARKS MUST BE THROWN OUT OF OFFICE ON THEIR EAR NEVER TO RETURN TO ANY GOVERNMENT OFFICE AGAIN !!!

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  • Thelma
    01/19/2018
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    A resounding NO to bringing back earmarks. Earmarks put politics ahead of constituents needs. Earmarks spend our tax money on personal whims of politicians rather than allow productive negotiation about a concern at hand. I want you, my lawmakers, to discuss relevant issues and compromise, not politicize with little gifts.

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  • Donna
    01/19/2018
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    Why not try doing your jobs without bribery or extortion first? We are once again on the brink of a government shutdown because you people can't freaking act like adults and do your jobs. If you can't fund CHIP or the military or keep our promise to the Dreamers, the last thing you all need is a slush fund to bribe each other to support 'special projects' for the children among you who throw the loudest temper tantrum. This is NOT why I pay taxes.

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  • Jacob
    01/19/2018
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    Hell no!!! please do not bring back pork barrel spending. The only reason they want to bring these back is because they think Congress will work together. Just work together and stop acting like children. Sometimes you’ll win and other times you won’t.

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  • Laura
    01/19/2018
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    No more earmarks! Stop adding “crap” to your bills. We are only moving backwards instead of progressing towards a a better country. How many years will it take to clean up this administrations misguided and ill-informed decisions?

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  • Micah
    01/19/2018
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    We don’t need earmarks to succeed, we need sound public policy!

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  • Stephen
    01/19/2018
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    Earmarks are for AFTER you have a budget. You idiots gave away all the money to the rich (and yourselves) and corporations! Don’t even think about cutting Social Security and Medicare!

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  • Tooluser1
    01/19/2018
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    Hell no! One bill, one subject and NO BRIBES.

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  • John
    01/19/2018
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    No earmarks! No bribery! No hidden chicanery!

    Like (10)
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  • Michael n angie
    01/19/2018
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    NO WAY!! “Proponents of the bill say it’s easier to pass legislation when you can entice a member to vote for something he would normally oppose “. And there you have it bribery to pass shitty bills and waste OUR MONEY!! Employees, you had better think long and hard on this one.

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  • Sheryl
    01/19/2018
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    I’m all for MORE trickery, corruption, pork and wasteful spending in our government and that’s why I support bringing back earmarks. Congressmen can adopt street names like Lefty, Killer, and 1Eye. Who needs the US Mint when we can make money in our basements and hide it in the Caymans. But I sure hope we don’t give money to any corrupt countries because we’re so righteous in the USA

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  • S
    01/19/2018
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    No pork barrel politics! No using my tax dollars to fund states’ special projects so Congress can get along and do some work. Pull up your big boy pants and big girl panties and make adult decisions instead of acting like 2 year olds in a play pen together fighting over one toy. It’s mine! No! It’s mine! This is blatant abuse of the tax payer. Adults are expected to know how to debate and compromise. You voted it out and now you want it back? What will stop you from doing what you are doing now? You will spend more time figuring out how to pay one another off than you will doing work. You have inflicted enough pain on us. Haven’t we suffered enough? Abusing tax payers is your answer? No. Absolutely No. Using my tax dollars to pad budgets to pay for some state’s special interest and cut federal programs? To pass legislation which includes sneaky, smarmy increases to the deficit to pay off some congress person to get a vote is NO! Pay to play? You pay for me with tax payers’ money and I’ll pay for you? Sneak it in there, bury it, and pull one over on the tax payer? Once again you will make US, John and Jane Doe, pay for your failings. What a bunch of no account, immature, unprofessional, block headed people you all are! My dog and cat get along better than you all and they don’t especially like one another.

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  • RickEberhardt
    01/19/2018
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    Earmarks are there strictly to help a congressman or senator to get re-elected. They don’t do much else. You want to do earmarks? Repay the money congress stole from social security. Seniors need the money more than you need to be re-elected. Do something for your constituents and less for yourselves getting re-elected.

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  • Dara
    01/19/2018
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    NO.

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  • Carole
    01/19/2018
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    Absolutely not. There is enough lobbying already.

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  • Leon
    01/19/2018
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    No more pork barrel spending! Cut spending!

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  • Mark
    01/19/2018
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    Is there anything put into place by the Obama administration, however reasonable, that this savage Congress isn’t trying to reverse? Earmarks are a prime example of wasteful spending that should be kept out of practice. Instead of bringing that loathsome practice back, get a budget passed that doesn’t damage large segments of the population. That’s actually Congress’s job, not sniping at the rights of women and minorities, not passing resolutions to disapprove of some other government’s behavior, and certainly not to give big corporations a windfall by increasing taxes on the middle class and by cranking up the national debt. Peter Roskam, did you pay ANY attention to the oath of office you swore to when you were elected?

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