The huge federal transportation bill was in tatters in early March when Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama posed a heretical idea for breaking through gridlock in the House. In a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans, Rogers recommended reviving a proven legislative sweetener that became politically toxic a year ago.It may be corrupt, in a sense, to get Congressmen to vote for a bill by adding a $50 million project for each district. But the old bosses always said it was the only way to get so many fractious politicians to all vote for the same bill, and it looks like they were right.
Bring back earmarks, Rogers, who was first elected to Congress in 2002, told his colleagues.
Few members of Congress have been bold enough to use the "e" word since both the House and Senate temporarily banned the practice last year after public outcries about Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" and other pork barrel projects. But as lawmakers wrestle with legislative paralysis, there are signs that earmarks - special interest projects that used to be tacked onto major bills - could make a comeback.
"I just got up ... and did it because I was mad because they were talking about how we can't get 218 votes," Rogers told Reuters, referring to the minimum of 218 votes needed to pass legislation in the 435-member House. "There was a lot of applause when I made my comments. I had a few freshmen boo me, but that's okay. By and large it was very well embraced," he added.
Political analysts have long referred to earmarks, or "member-directed funding" as it is sometimes known, as the grease enabling legislation to move through Congress.
Republican Representative Steven LaTourette, an 18-year House veteran, said the earmark ban "has affected discipline" within the party. "You can't get 218 votes (out of 242 Republican House members) and part of that has to be if you can't give people anything (earmarks), you can't take anything away from them."
Monday, April 2, 2012
Conservatism vs. Received Wisdom (and Earmarks)
Real conservatism, as I understand it, involves respect for the way things have been done in the past and skepticism about whether your bold new reform proposal will really make things any better. So perhaps the allegedly conservative House Republicans should have listened to the wisdom of old, experienced lawmakers before enacting their ban on earmarks. Reuters: