House to hold hearings on reviving earmarks

The House of Representatives kicks off two days of hearings Wednesday on whether to bring back so-called earmarks fol...

Posted: Jan 17, 2018 2:15 PM
Updated: Jan 17, 2018 2:15 PM

The House of Representatives kicks off two days of hearings Wednesday on whether to bring back so-called earmarks following a seven-year moratorium.

One week after President Donald Trump threw his support behind the idea, the Rules Committee will hold already-scheduled hearings on Wednesday and Thursday.

House Speaker John Boehner banned earmarks in 2011

Several high profile politicians -- including the President -- have called for bringing them back

Rep. Pete Sessions, the committee's chairman, believes lawmakers can revive the practice of tagging specific projects in spending bills.

"Yes, I do believe we can get there," Sessions told reporters, though he insisted they aren't talking about "earmarks" but "legislating specifically on projects."

Following examples of abuse and runaway spending, former House Speaker John Boehner banned earmarks when the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives in 2011.

Critics still fear public opposition to the idea of returning to earmarked spending, especially heading into an election year.

"We got beaten like a borrowed mule in the 2006 elections largely because of the corruption that came with earmarks," Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said last week. "People are forgetting that time. It was awful; we don't want to go back to that."

Trump raised the issue at a bipartisan meeting earlier this month with lawmakers at the White House, saying earmarks helped facilitate better cooperation between the two parties in Congress because members were more willing to compromise if they could get earmarked funds for their pet projects.

Sessions argued there is a "lightyear's difference" between the previous system and the system being considered now.

"This is draining the swamp. If you think that we are going back to where we were, we have missed the boat," Sessions said. The reformed process he's pushing, he added, would not look like the "earmarks" of the past that sparked public backlash, when thousands of projects were inserted into funding bills for items that many considered wasteful.

"No more surprises, no more secrets," the Texas Republican said.

Any changes, he stressed, would require a more transparent process in which members must attach their names and publicly argue for their requests. Members would also not be able to "airdrop" projects into a bill already worked out through a committee process.

He also vowed that any projects added to legislation would be "merit-based." It's unclear if Republicans do agree to make a change and whether it would come in next year's spending bills, which they will begin working on shortly.

Under the old system, lawmakers were attacked for pushing for projects like the so-called "bridge to nowhere," an earmark for a bridge costing more than $200 million to build to link a road to a remote Alaskan town with a tiny population. This time, Sessions noted "there's not exactly enough money to go splashing around." He said with fewer resources available to dole out to states and local governments, members will need to compete to get items in bills.

"We're for making sure that everybody has a chance and the best project, I should say projects, should win," Sessions said.

The Rules committee hearing on Wednesday will feature roughly a dozen lawmakers from both parties, including Florida GOP Rep. Tom Rooney, who pressed last year for the House to end the moratorium on specific funding projects, and the number two House Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer. On Thursday, the committee will hear from a group of outside experts on the issue.

The committee plans to take input from members across the spectrum of the conference and make a recommendation on whether to change existing rules.

To bring back the practice, the House GOP conference would first need to approve updating its internal rules, and then any modification would need to be approved in a vote by the full House of Representatives. Even though some Democrats support reviving earmarks, it's likely they will force Republicans to take ownership of the issue and carry any resolution on the House floor.

Shortly after the 2016 election, Ryan attempted to quash the idea of reviving earmarks, saying it wasn't the right time. "We just had a 'drain the swamp' election," Ryan told Republicans. "Let's not just turn around and bring back earmarks two weeks later."

Ryan helped lead the charge to ban earmarks back in 2011, and his spokeswoman, AshLee strong, says he still opposes them. However, he reached an agreement that the conference could have "have an open and honest conversation" as long as it was in public, rather than behind closed doors.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 590211

Reported Deaths: 9310
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion815581297
Lake44306666
Allen31919541
Hamilton28371304
St. Joseph26766371
Elkhart24098341
Vanderburgh18643213
Tippecanoe17422121
Johnson14496284
Porter14399160
Hendricks13870241
Madison10561212
Vigo10483171
Clark10240130
Monroe9076108
Delaware8836132
LaPorte8771155
Howard7897138
Kosciusko787277
Warrick643890
Hancock638797
Bartholomew626694
Floyd6150105
Wayne5933157
Grant5818110
Dubois544372
Boone534367
Morgan516291
Marshall494184
Henry493664
Cass471760
Noble460557
Dearborn458444
Jackson414745
Shelby402179
Lawrence380575
Clinton364539
Gibson356556
DeKalb337363
Montgomery334851
Harrison328542
Knox327839
Miami309843
Steuben306340
Adams295235
Whitley294125
Wabash293045
Ripley292345
Putnam284847
Huntington283557
Jasper282433
White267538
Daviess261672
Jefferson250738
Fayette242348
Decatur242182
Greene233360
Posey232326
Wells229447
LaGrange224161
Clay217932
Scott216937
Randolph208340
Jennings192535
Sullivan189031
Spencer181917
Fountain179725
Washington177118
Starke171341
Jay162821
Owen159537
Fulton159229
Carroll152115
Orange151433
Rush149918
Perry147227
Vermillion144933
Franklin143433
Parke12908
Tipton128232
Pike113625
Blackford107522
Pulaski95237
Newton89421
Brown85530
Benton84310
Crawford7579
Martin70013
Warren6587
Switzerland6205
Union6113
Ohio4677
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 826754

Reported Deaths: 10200
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin97493705
Cuyahoga821781012
Hamilton61350439
Montgomery41700399
Summit33399726
Lucas30111597
Butler29721228
Stark24811400
Warren18917139
Lorain18086212
Mahoning16758335
Lake15365135
Clermont15160104
Delaware1382177
Licking12679132
Trumbull12401302
Fairfield1218480
Greene11631133
Medina11128165
Clark10608264
Wood9964154
Allen9511126
Portage8867105
Miami886573
Richland8790116
Marion7319113
Tuscarawas7142174
Columbiana7085124
Pickaway702850
Wayne6781164
Muskingum671242
Erie5886118
Hancock537890
Ross530287
Scioto519662
Geauga483555
Darke457589
Ashtabula439068
Lawrence432651
Union430628
Mercer424287
Sandusky421862
Seneca413555
Auglaize412759
Huron410338
Shelby410221
Jefferson403366
Belmont395640
Washington372040
Putnam364672
Athens36369
Madison339329
Knox336522
Ashland331738
Fulton325943
Defiance319278
Crawford313268
Preble311534
Brown296619
Logan292729
Ottawa282134
Clinton279043
Williams270166
Highland262418
Jackson256943
Guernsey241725
Champaign240927
Fayette225529
Morrow22294
Perry221318
Holmes218662
Henry210247
Hardin204133
Coshocton197420
Van Wert196644
Gallia190926
Wyandot190549
Adams165615
Pike164116
Hocking163423
Carroll149516
Paulding139021
Noble117840
Meigs103221
Monroe95629
Harrison8568
Morgan79128
Vinton67113
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 20°
Angola
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 20°
Huntington
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 18°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 20°
Lima
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 19°
Seasonal Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events