Leave it to Progressive-Democrats to want to bring this exemplar of spendthrift back. You know what earmarks are:

“member-directed spending,” [that] are provisions discreetly tucked away in large spending vehicles that directly fund a pet project championed by a specific member of Congress for the member’s own constituents.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D, CT) and Senator Pat Leahy (D, VT)—the respective chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations committees are about to introduce legislation that would restore the business.

In contrast, Senator Ted Cruz (R, TX) and Congressman Ted Budd (R, NC) are pushing the Earmark Elimination Act, which would ban earmarks permanently. Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz told Just the News that

Earmarks are the most corrupt, costly, and inequitable practice in the history of Congress. They led to members, staff, and lobbyists being incarcerated. In a form of legalized bribery, members of Congress vote for tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in appropriations bills in return for a few million dollars in earmarks. Earmarks go to those in power, as shown during the 111th Congress, when the 81 members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, who constituted 15% of Congress, got 51% of the earmarks and 61% of the money. Restoring earmarks will lead to the same results.

I’m not as adamantly opposed to earmarks as some: they can be useful horsetrading tools, usable to facilitate political tradeoffs to get important legislation passed—or other useless legislation blocked.

The major problem, it seems to me, has been the secretive nature of earmarks. They tended to be negotiated behind closed doors, out of the public’s view, and then buried in one or another appropriations bill. The process needs to be better structured.

In that 111th Congress, the total amount that wound up being spent on earmarks amounted to some 3% of that session’s first year budget. Accordingly, break out those 3% into a separate appropriations bill as a sort of earmark slush fund. Then have every earmark proposal individually debated on the House and Senate floors until the 3% is committed, and where differences occur between the final House and Senate slush fund appropriations bills, let the bills be reconciled via House-Senate joint committees, just as every other bit of legislation is.

Let the horsetrading occur in plain sight of the House and Senate member constituencies. Ordinary Americans can handle the sight of sausage making. Honest.

And they’ll take appropriate action at the next election. ‘Course, that’s what the politicians are afraid of.

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