Earmark Discussion Feels Like Déjà Vu All Over Again

Some Members of Congress are making a serious push to bring back earmarks, and with it, the pork barrel politics of yesteryear. This kind of controversial spending is what left many voters with a bad taste for Washington’s wasteful behavior in the past. Despite a failed attempt to bring back earmarks last fall, only a week after a “drain the swamp” election, the House Rules Committee still plans on revisiting the issue.

When it comes to earmarks, lawmakers seem intent on repeating the kinds of mistakes that have led to a memorial for Dr. Seuss, zombie earmarks or “Jurassic Pork” (as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) referred to earmarks that have stubbornly stayed on the books), graft, and even prison - for more than one legislator. At a recent panel on earmarks, hosted by Citizens Against Government Waste and the Republican Study Committee (RSC), former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) expressed his dismay, saying that he was “astounded that you are even having this conversation,” the move to walk back the earmark ban was “tone deaf,” and that voters were sick and tired of this.

He explained that the earmark ban was imposed because earmarks are a “gateway drug to overspending”, and legislating had become less about good policy and more about buying votes with earmarks. Coburn agreed that it’s essential for Congress to direct how federal dollars are spent, but argued the best way to do that was by holding the Executive branch accountable.

Dr. Coburn was joined by former Senator and current Heritage Foundation President, Jim DeMint (R-SC), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), former RSC Chairman Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and other lawmakers, as well as CAGW President, Tom Schatz, in denouncing any attempt to rollback the earmark ban.

Sen. Lee and Rep. Hensarling followed up with a joint op-ed in the Washington Examiner, warning that any revival of earmarking, “...would make our job harder, make Congress weaker, and make federal power more centralized, less accountable and more corrupt.”

That’s not a state of affairs taxpayers want to see return. As Rep. Banks said at the CAGW event, “This is the antithesis of what voters wanted.”

Unlike some of their lawmakers, voters won’t make the same mistake twice when it comes to earmarks. We need to push back against any attempt to weaken or repeal the 2010 earmark ban.

TAKE ACTION to tell your legislators to support the earmark ban and send a message that the public trough is closed for business.