Congress Just Doled Out The Most Pork In Nearly Two Decades, Government Watchdog Says

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Congress has passed more than $26 billion in earmarks during Fiscal Year 2023, the highest amount since 2006, the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) reported.

Members in both chambers were able to pass 7,396 earmarks into law in FY2023, according to CAGW’s pig book. That number was up from 5,138 in FY2022, when Congress spent more than $19 billion on earmarks. Both chambers brought back pork in 2021, one decade after the parties announced a ban on the practice. (RELATED: The Pigs Are Back At The Trough—Senate Republicans Planning Earmarks Despite Ban)

Nearly every Democrat requested at least one earmark in FY2023, according to the pig book, with only four out of the party’s 275 members not filing for one. Fewer than half of Republicans requested earmarks, although outgoing Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby requested the highest-dollar earmarks out of any elected official. He garnered 18 earmarks totaling more than $666,000,000. His costliest earmark gave $200,000,000 to the Alabama State Port Authority to expand a terminal.

Earmarks were mostly requested by senators in FY2023, according to the pig book. Only two members of the House were among the top 50 officials who secured the most. This stands in contrast to FY2021, when Republican Rep. Garret Graves requested more than $1 billion for Louisiana’s Sixth District.

Some congressional Republicans blasted the excessive spending at a press conference hosted by CAGW.

“I’ve found that in politics especially it’s always darkest before the dawn, and I think we’re reaching a turning point in our history where the public will demand to those Jefferson principles. Citizens Against Government Waste is one of those critical fiscal watchdogs in Washington to point the way back to fiscal spending,” Republican California Rep. Tom McClintock said. McClintock proposed reinstating the House GOP’s earmark ban ahead of the 118th Congress, but the vote overwhelmingly failed.

“Even though Republicans promise not to use earmarks, earmarks are back again. Big spenders in both parties are once again abusing earmarks. At one point, earmarks were banned, specifically because of how corrupt they were. But the big spenders in both parties brought them back under a new name. They call them community project funding. But we know it’s just the same old game plan,” Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul added.