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Congress Plans To Reintroduce Legislative Earmarks, The ‘Gateway Drug Toward Corruption’

Earmarks in Congress

Despite the exploitation of earmarking in the past, Democrats are moving forward with a plan to reimplement the strategy with new restrictions.


Some representatives on the House Appropriations Committee are planning to bring back earmarks to Congress, allowing legislators to designate certain spending back to their districts for specific projects.

Despite the exploitation of earmarking in the past, such as “the bridge to nowhere,” that led to their ban in previous congressional terms, Democrats are moving forward with a plan to reimplement the strategy with new restrictions. According to Democratic House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, each representative will be allowed 10 earmark requests. For those requests to be written into legislation, members will have to prove that the projects they have in mind have community support and are in no way tied to a personal “financial interest” of the member. Finally, the members’ total earmarks may not exceed 1 percent of all discretionary spending.

Other limitations include banning for-profit institutions from receiving earmarked funding and prohibiting any projects that members’ relatives might be connected to in any way.

“My view has been that it’s a constitutional responsibility of the Congress the United States and that members of Congress know their districts better than almost anybody else,” Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and longtime earmark promoter said.

The Democrats’ hope, Axios reports, is that reintroducing earmarks will give them more leverage to sway Republican colleagues to vote for bills they might not normally support because they will have an opportunity to include their own needs in it. But some Republicans are not convinced that earmarks will be good for the legislative body.

“I am totally against it,” Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio told Politico. “I don’t think Republicans should be supportive of earmarks.”

“They’re a bad idea. I’m opposed to them,” Republican Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio said, noting that earmarks are often “described as a gateway drug toward corruption.”

Despite a Republican caucus ban on the legislative earmarks that would require action before any conservatives could partake in requests, Hoyer says his colleagues on the other side of the aisle are eager to use earmarking to serve their constituents.

“I’ve talked to a lot of Republicans who I expect are going to be requesting earmarks for their districts,” Hoyer said.