by The Daily Signal | 3.27.18
Reinstating earmarks would encourage corrupted self-interest, a former U.S. senator warns.
“Earmarks are about going to your banal interests rather than your highest interests; they’re about you, rather than the country,” former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told The Daily Signal in an interview Wednesday.
“The people that want to do earmarks say it is Congress’ role that they can do it. But they ignore the enumerated powers,” said Coburn, who served in the Senate from 2005 until his early retirement in 2015.
These lawmakers, he said, “are appropriating money for all these other things that Congress really doesn’t have the appropriative power to do.”
Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can't be done alone. Find out more >>
Enumerated powers are those the Constitution assigns to Congress, such as the power to tax and provide for the general welfare.
The House Rules Committee held hearings last week to discuss reviving the practice of earmarks.
Conservatives have staunchly opposed earmarks as examples of cronyism and corruption, saying the practice directs taxpayers’ money to lawmakers’ special interests and projects through the budget without competition based on merit.
Lawmakers banned earmarks under House rules in 2010.
President Donald Trump appeared to support some lawmakers’ calls to bring earmarking back in remarks he made Jan. 9.
“I think you should look at a form of earmarks,” Trump said during a meeting at the White House on immigration reform with House and Senate members. “One thing it did is it brought everybody together.”
Earmarks are irresponsible, Coburn told The Daily Signal, because they circumvent the oversight authority of Congress:
Remember who controls earmarks. It’s not all the members of Congress, it’s the appropriators. So what you do, there’s no reason to have an authorization committee if you have earmarks, because the [appropriators] are going to do whatever they want.
Coburn, now a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, also is familiar with earmarks from when he represented a Muskogee, Oklahoma-based district in the House from 1995 to 2001.
In a press conference Wednesday, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., decried any effort to reinstate the practice. Flake was was joined by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
“We have heard there is a serious, concerted effort in the House and that there is growing support to bring earmarks back,” Flake said. “That’s why it is so concerning. The hope is that, at least here in the Senate, we can stop it.”
The Senate voted Jan. 10, 2017, to reimpose the chamber’s ban on earmarks, with Flake among those spearheading the move.
Flake, who is not seeking election to a second term this year, introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday “to make permanent the temporary moratorium on congressional earmarks, which has been in effect since 2010,” according to a press release from his office.
“Right now, all we have are conference rules against the practice, but we don’t have it in statute, so it’s not permanent. And that is what we are attempting to do here,” Flake told reporters at the press conference.
McCaskill, a co-sponsor of the bill, said earmarking is an unethical practice that should be fought:
You know, the swampiest of swamp creatures is what earmarks are, it just doesn’t get any worse. It is not on merit, there is no cost-benefit analysis, there is not competition; it’s who you are, who you know, what lobbyist you hired, what party you are in, what committee you serve on, and whether you are a chairman.
Flake also said earmarks are a waste of time for Congress.
“Let me tell you, the committees that either authorize or appropriate money during that heyday of earmarking, virtually all their time was spent managing earmarks,” Flake said. “And that is it … earmarks are not worth going back to.”
Written by The Daily Signal
Follow this Action Center to stay updated on new posts