House GOP Conference Tables Earmark Revival

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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The GOP’s longstanding ban on earmarks will remain in place after amendments designed to reinstate the controversial tool were withdrawn during a closed-door Republican conference meeting Wednesday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan requested members table the issue until 2017, allowing lawmakers more time to address the problem.

“We just had a ‘drain the swamp’ election,” he reportedly told members in the room. “Let’s not just turn around and bring back earmarks two weeks later.”

Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama and Thomas Rooney of Florida introduced the amendment, arguing it would bring back the power of the purse. Critics said earmarks were heavily abused in the past and reinstating them would send the wrong message to voters looking for transparency.

“We had a family discussion and we came to the conclusion it is better to look at a holistic process reform for Article One appropriations,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores told reporters.

Culberson’s proposal would have prevented an increase in spending while increasing transparency by requiring the earmark to be initiated in committee and the member sponsoring it to be identified. Rooney’s would have excluded existing or proposed water resource development projects of the Army Corps of Engineers from the language banning earmarks currently in place.

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie said Rooney’s proposed amendment would have likely passed if leadership had not requested it be withdrawn.

“‎I can write a letter and hope that they listen to me, which over at the Army Corps they probably take that letter and put it into the shredder,” Rooney told reporters ahead of the vote. “They don’t give a rat’s ass what I think.”

House GOP leaders made it clear they have a vested interest in restoring Article One powers when laying out their “A Better Way” agenda and will continue the discussion on how to best handle restoring the balance of power between the different branches of government.

“We’ll continue to talk about how we deal with Article One powers, making sure that the Article One powers come back to the House and Senate and not with the administration,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.

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