Senate Republicans say they'll violate their own ban on earmarks

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Their caucus opted just days ago against rescinding its ban on congressionally directed spending.

Two weeks ago, the Senate Republican caucus rejected an effort to lift their own ban on earmark requests. But several members of the caucus are already saying they will request them anyway.

Six Republican senators so far plan to openly flout their party's rule against requesting congressionally directed funding for projects in their states, Politico reported Wednesday. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Richard Shelby of Alabama all say they plan to seek such funding.

"If House Republicans are requesting individual projects and House Democrats are — and Senate Democrats are — it would seem to me there's a big gap there for the people we represent if we don't become part of that process," Blunt told the outlet.

Another 10 GOP senators said that they are undecided about whether to break the rule — including Minority Whip John Thune and Iowa's Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican serving in the Senate.

The Constitution established Congress as the branch of government that passes government appropriations. For years, lawmakers of both parties used a system known as earmarking to specify which spending projects it intended to fund in those appropriations bills. Supporters argued this process gave elected legislators an important voice in where the funds went and made deal-making easier.

But critics attacked it as corrupting and as leading to wasteful spending. Since 2011, the House and Senate have implemented moratoria on all earmarks, leaving it up to the executive branch to decide how best to allocate appropriated funds.

This year, the Democratic majorities in both chambers announced they would restore the old practice — with safeguards to ensure the money goes only to public institutions and nonprofits — and invited Republicans to participate if they so chose.

While some Senate Republicans embraced the idea, the caucus opted against dropping its earmark prohibition at an April 21 meeting.

House Republicans took the opposite approach. After many denounced earmarks for years as "corrupt," most members of their GOP caucus voted in a March 17 secret ballot to let their members resume making earmark requests in most circumstances. The vote was 102 for, 84 against.

As of last week, about half of House Republicans had put in requests for project funding, including some people who had publicly attacked the idea recently.

According to Roll Call, Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), for example, signed a March 10 open letter saying that "nothing epitomizes what is wrong with Washington more than pork-barrel spending in the form of congressional earmarks," but he has since requested 10 separate projects, worth tens of millions of dollars in total.

The Republican National Committee platform brags: "Our Republican majority ended the practice of earmarks, which often diverted transportation spending to politically favored projects."

Their Republican minority in both chambers has now helped bring that practice back.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.