House GOP to bring back earmarks?

After taking control of the House of Representatives in a wave election in 2010, House Republicans decided to extend their moratorium on earmarks, a controversial budget tactic that allow members to insert pet projects in spending bills without so much as a committee hearing or vote.

But before the GOP took control, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who would later become House Majority Leader, suggested that the moratorium on earmarks may only be temporary, which would be a slap in the face to fiscal conservatives and Tea Party activists that helped the GOP come back to power. Cantor was quick to amend his remarks, but it looks like House Republicans have learned little. Reuters notes that they are considering resuming the practice of earmarking:

The huge federal transportation bill was in tatters in early March when Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama posed a heretical idea for breaking through gridlock in the House.

In a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans, Rogers recommended reviving a proven legislative sweetener that became politically toxic a year ago.

Bring back earmarks, Rogers, who was first elected to Congress in 2002, told his colleagues.

Few members of Congress have been bold enough to use the “e” word since both the House and Senate temporarily banned the practice last year after public outcries about Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere” and other pork barrel projects.

But as lawmakers wrestle with legislative paralysis, there are signs that earmarks - special interest projects that used to be tacked onto major bills - could make a comeback.

“I just got up … and did it because I was mad because they were talking about how we can’t get 218 votes,” Rogers told Reuters, referring to the minimum of 218 votes needed to pass legislation in the 435-member House.

“There was a lot of applause when I made my comments. I had a few freshmen boo me, but that’s okay. By and large it was very well embraced,” he added.

New Republican members backed by the Tea Party movement have railed against earmarks as a symbol of out-of-control government spending and unaccountable lawmakers.

In short, because they can’t get enough votes to pass the bloated highway bill, some House Republicans feel the need to use earmarks to attract support to get enough votes to move it forward.

While earmarks represent a very small portion of the budget they areĀ  symbolic of the waste we’ve come to know and despise from Washington, especially at a time when red ink endlessly flow from Capitol Hill with no end in sight. Moreover, the process isn’t at all transparent and their is little accountability in the process, which is no way to establish a contrast with the secretive Obama Administration.

This is disappointing, for sure, but not entirely unexpected. It’s not uncommon for legislators to fall in love with the smell of the marble in the Halls of Congress, but House leadership just doesn’t seem to understand that ending earmarking was a primary reason why the Tea Party movement and fiscal conservatives were willing to come out for them in 2010. If the House GOP begins acting like they prior to 2006, when trading earmarks for votes was common — the currency of corruption, as Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) call it, a big incentive for supporting them goes out the window.


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