I was glad to see this news. I have been arguing for a number of years now that the 2011 ban on earmarks is a good example of how the pursuit of “political purity” has contributed to making Congress less able to put together budget and appropriations legislation. With a small governing majority, it is all the more important that Democratic leaders in the House have the ability to bring members along on these matters by offering them benefits for their districts. If this change is adopted, I will be interested to see what conditions, if any, are imposed on the kinds of earmarks that can be requested.
The House had created a Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress as one of the first acts of the 116th Congress. The committee has been praised for functioning in a bipartisan fashion. It was chaired by Rep. Kilmer (D-Wa), with Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga) as vice-chair. When the committee issued its report, I blogged a month ago on this site about its recommendation to restore earmarks, among the 97 recommendations the committee made.
Here is an excerpt from that earlier post:
“One of the biggest reasons, I think, Congress is held in low regard is because of the dysfunction that you’ve seen on budget and appropriations matters,” Kilmer said.
They believe that if members of Congress could be in charge of directing funding to their districts, they will be much more invested in the entire process.
Their proposal would limit earmarks to local entities like water authorities and police departments, not private companies, and that they would function like grant proposals. And if local officials abused the system, federal investigators would be empowered to claw back the funds.