Show an ad over header. AMP

Congress set to revive limited earmarks to let lawmakers direct funds to special projects

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to announce details of a plan to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.


  • Plus, Democrats expect Republicans will join in the earmarks push once it’s clear directed spending is back.
  • There's already evidence that some are getting on board. “As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I believe there is a time and a place for congressionally directed appropriations that are guided by a set of specific parameters," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told Axios in a statement.
  • House Appropriations Committee chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is scheduled to brief the Democratic caucus on the proposal Friday morning.

The big picture: Past scandals, including the $400 million "bridge to nowhere" and former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham's jail time for corruption related to earmarks, have some members skeptical about the return of the controversial provision.

But Appropriations Committee Democrats believe they can avoid a return of those kinds of scandals by creating new safeguards that promote transparency and impose stricter limits on spending:

  • Earmark funding would be prioritized for community-backed projects.
  • For-profit institutions would no longer be eligible for funding.
  • Members' relatives wouldn't be able to have connections to the projects.
  • There would be a cap on the total amount of community projects funded.

What they're saying: “My view has been that it’s a constitutional responsibility of the Congress the United States and that members of Congress know their districts better than almost anybody else," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Wednesday.

  • "Their judgment, as to how we can invest in helping their districts, is best made by the members, and not by others.”

Driving the news: The moratorium was driven largely by Tea Party opposition to the practice. Now, Republicans are divided on the prospect of its return, with the more ideological members standing firm against it while establishment Republicans signaling openness to it.

  • The House Freedom Caucus issued a statement opposing earmarks on Wednesday, "whether in the 117th Congress or any future Congress."
  • "I don't see the guardrails and parameters in place with the earmarks right now that would suggest it's okay to use them," Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) told Axios. 'They can be used as leverage against anybody who has a problem or disagreement with leadership or anything like that."
  • Cole, however, argued that "when focused on core infrastructure and community service needs, this tool can vitally help members to ensure their constituencies are not overlooked.”
  • "I think they've been frankly misdescribed as to what they actually do, and so I think people are more afraid of the electoral consequences than they are of our leadership using them as leverage against our members.”
  • Republicans have a caucus-wide ban on earmarks and would have to remove it before their members could make earmark requests.

Michael Steel, who served as press secretary for House Speaker John Boehner, told Axios the removal of earmarks may have hamstrung Boehner at the time.

  • "There have been a number of institutional changes from campaign finance regulations to the rise of social media that have made the job of congressional leadership in both houses and both parties more difficult," he said. "Lack of earmarks is probably part of that."

Corporate America begins to see fallout after wading into politics

Corporate America is finding it can get messy when it steps into politics.

Why it matters: Urged on by shareholders, employees and its own company creeds, Big Business is taking increasing stands on controversial political issues during recent months — and now it's beginning to see the fallout.

Keep reading... Show less

Church shelters call out U.S. for expelling migrants when they have capacity

Despite the separation between church and state, the federal government depends upon religious shelters to help it cope with migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Why it matters: The network supports the U.S. in times of crisis, but now some shelter leaders are complaining about expelling families to Mexico when they have capacity — and feel a higher calling — to accommodate them.

Keep reading... Show less

Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict in the murder of George Floyd is the rare officer conviction

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was shown kneeling on George Floyd's neck last year in a video that shook the nation, was found guilty of murder and manslaughter on Tuesday.

Yes, but: Eight years after the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement, it's still rare for police officersto face legal consequences or jail time over the deaths of Black people.

Keep reading... Show less

Senate confirms Lisa Monaco as Justice Department's deputy attorney general

The Senate voted 98-2 on Tuesday to confirm Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general for the Justice Department, making her the agency's second highest-ranking official.

Why it matters: Monaco is expected to play a key role in Attorney General Merrick Garland's pledge to crack down on violence from domestic extremist groups, including the department's sweeping investigation of the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Keep reading... Show less

Minneapolis reflects on Chauvin verdict as a step toward healing and calm

A growing crowd outside the Hennepin County Government Center broke out into cheers, hugs and tears of relief as word of the Derek Chauvin verdict spread just after 4pm CST.

Catch up quick: Eleven months after George Floyd died under the former Minneapolis police officer's knee, a jury of 12 neighbors returned a guilty verdict on all three counts.

Keep reading... Show less

"Painfully earned justice has finally arrived for George Floyd’s family": Nation reacts to Chauvin verdict

America is speaking out after the jury in Derek Chauvin's trial announced its guiltyverdict after about 10 hours of deliberation.

What they're saying...

Ben Crump, Floyd family lawyer: "GUILTY! Painfully earned justice has finally arrived for George Floyd’s family ... Justice for Black America is justice for all of America!"

Keep reading... Show less

Derek Chauvin found guilty of all 3 charges in George Floyd's death

A jury on Tuesday found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in George Floyd's death.

Why it matters: This rare conviction of a police officer may come to be seen as a defining moment in America's collective reckoning with issues of race and justice.

Keep reading... Show less

Super League in super trouble

The European Super League is on the brink before it even manages to launch.

The state of play: Two key English teams — Chelsea and Manchester City — are reportedly preparing to exit just two days after the league announced its formation, ESPN notes.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories