House conservatives are pushing back against efforts to restore the use of earmarks, as Democrats gear up to revive the practice that allows lawmakers to secure federal funding for specific projects.
The House Freedom Caucus took an official position against earmarks on Tuesday evening, with members arguing the practice is a pathway toward more corruption in Congress.
Republicans in the lower chamber ended the use of earmarks in 2011, saying they contributed to a number of earlier scandals.
While Democrats and a number of GOP lawmakers argue that reforming the earmark process would help bring the power of the purse back to the legislative branch, critics argue it’s ripe for abuse.
“The old system was flawed, leading to corruption and coercion. Congress was right to stop the rampant earmark abuse and work towards a more transparent appropriations process. However, in attempting to correct this spending mechanism, we ceded too much power to the executive branch,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said in a statement.
“Congress has become too comfortable with top-line appropriations, letting unelected bureaucrats determine our nation’s spending priorities. We cannot return to the old earmarks rules. However, Congress must reassert its Article I, Section 8 spending authority to control the budget,” he added.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), another Freedom Caucus member, argued earmarks are “little more than legislative bribery.”
“Make no mistake: these will be used as currency for votes as Democrat leadership buys off moderates who do not support their party’s radical policy agenda,” he said. “This chamber has already made it clear that it is no longer the People’s House in any true sense, but consolidating even more power in party leadership would be another institutional embarrassment on a list that’s already too long.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has said there is bipartisan support for the resurgence of earmarks with safeguards put in place to increase transparency. He told reporters on Wednesday that he’s “talked to a lot of Republicans who I expect are going to be requesting earmarks for their districts.”
Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.), a senior member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said he feels it’s a necessary move to restore Congress’s constitutional authority.
“The entire federal spending is earmarks — every penny it. Right now, Congress has ceded all of that authority to the administration, which I think is clearly against the spirit of the Constitution,” he said, adding that there needs to be transparency in the process.