Earmarks are making a comeback in Congress

It’s not surprise that there are some House Republicans that want to bring back earmarks. Early last month, some in the caucus made it known that they want to end the moratorium on earmarks. But the push seems to have received more momentum as more House Republicans are making it publicly know that they want to bring earmarks, which Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) once called the “currency of corruption,” back into practice:

A group of Republicans is working on a game plan aimed at lifting the House ban on earmarks early next year.

While the frustrated GOP lawmakers concede that eradicating the ban is not going to happen this Congress, they have become more outspoken in recent weeks and months. Their goal is to change the House’s policy in 2013.
Conservative Rep. John Culberson (Texas) is the most recent GOP lawmaker to publicly push back against the ban that was formally adopted when Republicans took control of the House in 2011.

Culberson, the chairman of a military-construction appropriations panel, expressed exasperation earlier this week that he can’t expedite the expansion of a governmental military facility in Ohio, which is now slated for 2016.

“In light of new security threats to our country and our allies, expansion of [the Foreign Materials Exploitation Lab] is desperately needed now. And because of the earmark ban, I can’t move it … it’s just nuts,” Culberson told The Hill.
Culberson says he’s been “pounding” the leadership to move on the reforms, as well as “educating” his colleagues on the “urgency” of the situation.

“This is an evolving conversation … This was designed as a temporary ban, and I’m only talking about infrastructure for national security purposes or critical infrastructure. For example, flood control or transportation, that’s critical public infrastructure, which we have no conflict of interest, no personal interest of any kind and is utterly transparent,” Culberson said.

The good news is that House Speaker John Boehner seems opposed to the idea, at least publicy. However, he made comments late last month that seemed to lament the legislative process without earmarking to sweeten certain bills that may otherwise be opposed by members. But with that aside, Mark Flatten of the Washington Examiner notes that earmarks are already back in some form:

Eyelash curlers and nail clippers. Electronic ice shavers and battery-operated jar openers. Leather and non-leather basketballs.

These are some of the things members of Congress have busied themselves with in recent months, introducing more than 1,200 bills to grant special exemptions from tariff duties for those and other products sought by certain favored companies.

The measures – known as Miscellaneous Tariff Bills (MTBs) – waive or substantially reduce government duties charged on a wide variety of imported goods, ranging from ordinary kitchen utensils to complex chemical cocktails, usually for three years.

To get the exemption, the domestic companies that use or sell the product must convince a member of Congress to introduce an MTB. It is then referred to either the House Ways and Means Committee or the Senate Finance Committee.

There is little chance an MTB will be disallowed, so long as it meets the statutory requirements that there are no domestic manufacturers of the product and the cumulative annual cost will not exceed $500,000.

The key to this is going to be the large group freshman Republicans, the so-called “Tea Party class.” They have already been a let down on some of the bills brought to the floor, so whether or not they will stay true to the principles and voters that put them in Washington remains to be seen.

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