‘This is beyond the pale, And stupid politically….’
(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) Many conservative activists reacted with disgust and anger this week as congressional Republicans and President Trump floated proposals to end the ban on pork-barrel “earmarks” in federal spending bills.
Earmarks are directives in appropriations bills to finance specific local projects that might not otherwise be eligible, or at least not obviously so, for funding within the bill in question.
After negative publicity, that earmark was revoked in 2005.
Negative public reaction to the Alaskan bridge catalyzed a national movement against earmarks that culminated in a general congressional ban on the practice beginning in 2011.
A number of congressmen, however, have long argued that earmarks allow Congress to exercise more specific control of taxpayer money – and also, by providing constituent rewards as lures for cooperation, help legislators achieve compromises necessary to reach agreement on “must pass” legislation.
That was the argument adopted by Trump on Tuesday, who said “I hear so much about earmarks — the old earmark system — how there was a great friendliness when you had earmarks…. [M]aybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks.”
Conservative congressman and activist groups, however, swiftly denounced the suggestion.
“If Republicans bring back earmarks, then it virtually guarantees that they will lose the House,” said former congressman David McIntosh, now president of the Club for Growth. “Bringing back earmarks is the antithesis of draining the swamp. Earmarks will only benefit the special interests that grow government at the expense of working men and women.”
The Club for Growth and nine other fiscally conservative organizations sent a letter to Trump on Wednesday calling earmarks “corrupt, inequitable, and wasteful.”
Directly addressing Trump’s argument about “friendliness,” the organizations wrote that “earmarks do not help members get along better; they unfairly benefit a select group at the expense of everyone else.”
One of those groups, FreedomWorks, was particularly scathing, with vice president Jason Pye saying:
This is beyond the pale. And stupid politically.
Republicans just barely got in one significant accomplishment with tax reform before the end of 2017.
Now they want to bring back one of the things that caused Republicans to lose control of the House in 2006, just in time for the 2018 midterms.
Too many Republicans are now working to bring back the little bit of the swamp we have successfully drained.
Earmarks represent corruption, with appropriators doling out pork to buy votes.
Republicans should focus on keeping their campaign promises instead of feeding the alligators in the swamp.
It wasn’t only hard-line conservatives who blasted the idea of re-welcoming earmarks.
Veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, one of the most ideologically quirky of all GOP congressmen, said this:
I saw with my own eyes the corruption and fiscal irresponsibility wrought by earmarks.
Members of Congress went to jail because of earmarks.
Deficits ballooned because of earmarks.
The problems on Capitol Hill are many. Returning to pork barrel spending will make them all worse.
If Trump and congressional leaders persist, they probably face quite a donnybrook.
Nearly a full year ago, on January 26 of 2017, a group of 81 conservative leaders, most of them affiliated with different individual organizations, signed a letter warning lawmakers against resuming earmarks.
Still, with Trump’s support, earmarks could gain traction.
A few conservative House members, such as Florida’s freshman Rep. Matt Gaetz, said earmarks return control to elected lawmakers rather than unelected, executive branch drones.
“I think one way to drain the swamp,” Gaetz said, “is to return power to the elected representatives of the people and to not have decisions made by bureaucrats in windowless cubicles with, you know, green shades on their reading glasses.”