Proposal to bring back earmarks is withdrawn

There has been some talk over the last year that House Republicans would bring back earmarks, a line-items in spending bills for specific districts or for favored constituencies. The process is scrutinized by fiscal conservatives because there is little sunlight in the process by which earmarks are included in spending bills and most projects are wasteful in their nature.

House Republicans place a moratorium on earmarks when they took control of the chamber in 2011. There were reports early this year, however, that some members were making a push to bring back the pernicious practice, perhaps as a way to influence members of either side to support legislation they may otherwise oppose.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK), a long-time proponent of earmarking and an apologist for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” was planning to introduce a measure to change House rules that would lift the ban. But pressure from Speaker John Boehner led Young to withdraw the proposal:

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) withdrew an amendment to House GOP rules under pressure from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who had made his opposition to the measure clear. The measure would have allowed an exception to the earmark ban if the recipient of the earmark was a unit of local government.

A source close to the Speaker told The Hill the Young amendment would have created “a gaping loophole” to the earmark ban.

“At the end of the day, he declined to offer it because of the clear opposition in the room,” the source said. “Prior to Young pulling the amendment, the Speaker had let it be known that he opposed the amendment and would ask for its defeat if offered.”

Boehner has been a longtime proponent of the earmark ban, having never requested any so-called “pork barrel” spending during his tenure in the House.

Back in 2006, at the height of the discussion about ethics in Congress, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who is now headed to the Senate, explained that earmarks are the “currency of corrpution.” Not only were members using them to steer business to donors and friends, they were also using earmarks to help themselves.

Banning earmarks, given their tendency to lead toward corruption, was a win for fiscal conservatives, but it was small victory in a much larger battle, one that we’ll still be fighting in the next Congress, the issues have just changed. Instead of pork projects, it’s now over the need for the sequestration cuts to actually take place rather than continuing to kick the can down the road.

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