Here Comes The Pork: Congressional Earmarks Are Reportedly Making A Comeback

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Congress is planning to bring back earmarks, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reportedly told Democrats during a Tuesday call.

Hoyer told Democrats that he can “guarantee” that there will be a “bipartisan” effort to bring back the spending practice, two people on the call said according to a Politico report. A spokesperson told the outlet that House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro “is working through the details of a reformed process” for earmarks and more information will be shared “in the coming weeks.”

Democratic Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy has “been clear about his intent to restore congressionally directed spending in a transparent and accountable way as part Congress’ constitutional power of the purse,” a spokesperson for Leahy said according to Politico.

Earmarks are line items that are inserted into bills directing money towards a specific recipient. Politicians have been accused of “pork-barrelling,” or using earmarks for favors or to direct money towards their own district. (RELATED: Pork Spending, Earmarks ‘Alive And Well’ In Washington)

In May of 2019, Senate Republicans passed a permanent ban on the spending practice with a 28-12 vote. Before the permanent ban on earmarks, Republicans had been continuously renewing a temporary two-year ban that had been in place since 2011.

Despite the 2011 moratorium, the government watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste found that in 2019 Congress passed the largest amount of earmarks since 2010, costing taxpayers more than $15.3 billion.

“The primary cause of this upsurge in earmarks was the February 8, 2018 passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act, which obliterated the spending restraints imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act and paved the way for a 13.4 percent increase in spending in FYs 2018 and 2019,” the 2019 Citizens Against Government Waste report said. (RELATED: Hide-And-Seek! Congress Still Burying Earmarks In Bills)

In 2020, House Democrats considered allowing earmarks again but decided to postpone the effort, Politico reported. Some House Democrats have voiced concerns that bringing back earmarks would fund attack ads that would harm their reelection chances in swing districts.

A top aide for a Democrat who flipped a Republican House seat in 2018 told Politico last year that Democrats are “not going to have a majority” if they allow earmarks.

“This is not what we came to Congress to do,” the aide told the outlet. “Voters made it clear years ago that they were tired of pork and special interest spending in Washington and sweetheart deals.”