Speaker Paul Ryan put a stop to a closed-door vote between House Republicans on bringing back legislative earmarks. Ryan, citing Trump’s recent election victory, told his colleagues that now is not the time to bring back congressional earmarks. A decision on the matter has been tabled until 2017.
Legislative earmarks, the practice of sending federal money to home districts for whatever projects, was done away with when Republicans took control of the House in 2010. Earmarks by that time had been given a bad name after numerous pork-barrel spending projects were publicized. Remember Alaska’s "bridge to nowhere?"
However, a strong case has been made for bringing earmarks back to Congress. Lawmakers argue that since abolishing the practice, they have ceded spending authority completely to the executive branch. Some members have suggested earmarks be brought back with reform to prevent abuse and promote transparency. They’ve even rebranded the practice, calling it “congressional district spending.”
Reps. Mike Rogers, Tom Rooney, and John Culberson had filed an amendment regarding the earmark spending ban, and another amendment by Rooney even looked to pass during the secret vote among House Republicans.
Despite all this, Speaker Ryan urged his colleagues to forget about the amendments for now. He made the case that Donald Trump was just elected on the promise of “draining the swamp” and doing away with spending practices such as earmarks. Ryan pledged to return to the issue in 2017 after they’ve been able to study it more thoroughly and able to reach a better decision.
It may end up becoming another battle between establishment and ant-establishment forces. Numerous representatives support bringing earmarks back. Rep. Peter King of New York had the following to say regarding earmarks:
“I’m a New York hack; I support earmarks,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Tuesday. “I came out of an organization, I believe in that type of politics, but I’m the wrong guy to ask. I’m not the moral guardian of the conference.”
While many legislators are for it, there are grassroots organizations leading the fight to keep the practice banned. Heritage Action for America and Club for Growth have been making calls and shoring up support to keep the ban in place.
“It’s been barely a week since voters sent a resounding rejection of Washington insider politics, and yet House Republicans are already on the verge of proving they’re tone deaf,” Club President David McIntosh said in a statement. “Voters believed that Republicans would ‘drain the swamp,’ not redirect it for their own benefit. Any effort to restore this kind of cronyism should be flatly rejected.”
What’s left to see is how president-elect Trump deals with the issue when he steps into the White House in January.