House Republicans during a party meeting voted to lift their decade-old self-imposed ban on earmarks, which will allow members to secure funds for their favored projects via large federal spending bills.
In a 102-84 vote on Wednesday, the House Republican Conference passed a resolution by Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers to remove a 2011 ban on earmarks, so long as lawmakers publicly disclosed them with a written justification for why projects are an “appropriate use of taxpayer funds,” and verify that neither the lawmakers nor their immediate family members have a financial interest in the proposed projects.
The resolution follows the House Democrats’ approved the return of earmarks, which they dubbed “community project funding,” last month.
The vote ends a weeks-long debate within the House Republican caucus about whether to lift the earmarks ban.
Last week, 35 Republicans strongly objected to the revival that they said would worsen the federal debt problem. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) announced on Feb. 26 that from 2022, all members of Congress will be able to designate up to 10 earmarks each year. Names of earmark sponsors and details of the projects to be funded are to be made public, among other reforms.
“The Republican Party should be ashamed of itself for embracing earmarks when the American people are staring at $30 trillion in debt,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said after the vote. He was one of 18 House Republicans who told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a letter that they would not participate in the practice.
Roy was joined by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who said that House Republicans had made a “serious mistake” and that he hoped his colleagues in the Senate would resist the effort to bring back earmarks.
“It’s unfortunate,” Cruz said, reported the Wall Street Journal. “Earmarks played a major role in the out-of-control spending we have in Washington, played a major role in entrenching the swamp from both parties, and when the Republican revolution led to banning earmarks, it was a major step towards limiting the power of the swamp. And today, House Republicans turned back on that problem.”
While the caucus leadership didn’t express a position on the issue before the vote, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said after the vote to lift the ban that if Republicans are not involved in directing where money gets spent, Democrats will.
“There’s a real concern about the administration directing where money goes. This doesn’t add one more dollar. I think members here know what’s most important about what’s going on in their district, not Biden,” McCarthy told the reporters. “I think members want to have a say in their own district.”
The Democrats, following the 2020 general election, called for the return of earmarking, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) saying that the practise will help reaching more deals and passing more bills with bipartisan support.
Former President Donald Trump at one stage expressed support for reviving earmarks as something that “brings people together.”
“We should think about it and put better controls because it got out of hand,” he said during a bipartisan meeting in 2018.