Even as Republicans, newly empowered after taking control of the House, call for deep government spending cuts and accuse Democrats of profligacy with taxpayer dollars, a growing number of them have joined Democrats in helping themselves to larger amounts of cash for their states and districts in the form of earmarks — now rebranded as “community project funding” — that allow lawmakers to direct federal money to pet projects.
A review by The New York Times of the nearly $16 billion in earmarks included in the $1.7 trillion spending law enacted in December — more than 7,200 projects in all — revealed that earmarks requested by members of both parties skyrocketed over the last year. And while Democrats secured a greater amount of spending on pet projects overall than Republicans did, the increase in G.O.P. earmarks since last spring was larger.
Compared to spending legislation in March, the number of earmarks in the December bill rose by more than 2,200, costing $7 billion more, with Democrats outspending Republicans by $2.3 billion. Republican members secured 85 percent more in spending for pet projects in the latest funding package than in previous one, whereas Democrats’ increase was 70 percent.
The totals still pale in comparison to the heyday of earmarking — lawmakers claimed $32 billion worth in the 2010 fiscal year, before the prohibition went into effect — but the uptick reflects a bipartisan return in enthusiasm for the practice.
Republican lawmakers claimed eight of the 10 most expensive earmarks, with Representative Brian Mast of Florida, securing the largest: $447 million for an ecosystem restoration project in South Florida.