Right Hooks

GOP Punts on Earmarks

Republicans have agreed to wait until next year to vote on lifting the ban.

Thomas Gallatin · Nov. 17, 2016

The issue of lifting the ban on earmarks brought forth by several House Republicans was gaining momentum until Speaker Paul Ryan stepped in. He put the brakes on a vote because reinstituting earmarks would have been perceived by the public as yet another instance of government cronyism. As one source in the room put it, Ryan “said we just had a ‘drain the swamp’ election and cannot turn right around and bring back earmarks behind closed doors.” Ryan postponed the vote until early 2017 and pledged to study the issue further. It’s alarming to conservatives that so many Republicans favor lifting, at least in part, the ban on earmarks — a ban that many have credited for giving Republicans the House majority in 2010.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who supports lifting the ban, argued that Barack Obama’s “administration took the money for water projects and decided who would be the winner and who would be the loser, not based upon the feedback of the Corps of Engineers or members of Congress.” He believes that Republicans in Congress “overplayed their hand” by enacting the earmark ban in 2011, “so we’re trying to balance that out.” Proponents of reinstatement argue it’s a separation of powers issue related to the power of the purse.

While frustration over how Obama directed spending is well founded, the solution is not through re-enabling greater cronyism and corruption. As former Sen. Tom Coburn stated, “Washington, DC, is broken and no one is interested in fixing it. The arrogance of power is just as dangerous in the hands of Republicans as it is in [the hands of] Democrats.” Finally, the mere fact that outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called himself the “king of earmarks” and boasted about them to his constituents should give every Republican pause in contemplating lifting the ban.

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