On Friday, The Washington Free Beacon reported that the Senate passed an amendment on Thursday renewing and codifying a Congressional ban on earmarking bills.
The article quotes Senator Ben Sasse who led the initiative to ban earmarks:
“The last thing taxpayers need is for the same politicians who racked up a $22 trillion national debt to go on an earmark binge,” Sasse said in a statement. “It’s pretty simple: Earmarks are a crummy way to govern and they have no business in Congress. Backroom deals, kickbacks, and earmarks feed a culture of constant incumbency and that’s poisonous to healthy self-government. This is an important fight and I’m glad that my Republican colleagues agreed with my rules change to make the earmark ban permanent.”
Earmarks have been banned before, but somehow keep cropping up again. In 2011 the Senate passed a temporary ban on earmarks. In 2017, the Senate voted to keep the ban in place. However, in the past, the ban has not necessarily accomplished much.
The article reports:
The Senate voted in 2017 to keep the ban in place, with a push led by former Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.). Flake launched an investigation in 2015 which found that, despite the 2011 ban, many earmarks had slipped through, with hundreds of millions spent on side projects, such as grape research and subsidies for a ballet theater in the wealthiest congressional district in America.
Similarly, a Citizens Against Government Waste report found that Congress had approved $5.1 billion in earmarks in 2016. In 2016, House Republicans attempted to undo earmark bans, but the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) rebuffed the effort, saying that it would inappropriate right after a “drain the swamp” election.
Earmarks are a tool to get bills passed that might not otherwise be passed. If a Senator is promised a new highway for his state in exchange for his vote, he might vote for whatever is being considered. However, earmarks make it possible to pass bills that are wasteful and would not otherwise pass. Banning earmarks is a really good idea.