Show an ad over header. AMP

Senate plots its own earmark comeback

With the Senate done battling over President Biden's coronavirus rescue package, it's preparing to tackle another priority: earmarks.

Driving the news: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top members on the Senate Appropriations Committee, are expected to work out a deal restoring the congressional spending tool in the coming weeks, committee aides tell Axios.


  • Earmarks give lawmakers the power to direct spending to pay for special projects in their districts. They've already been reintroduced in the House.
  • The process faces tougher obstacles in the Senate, given its razor-thin majority, though lawmakers are hopeful Leahy can reach an agreement with Shelby.
  • Two Democratic committee aides tell Axios that if Republicans refuse to come on board, they expect Leahy will drop earmarks altogether rather than try to push through a Democrat-only proposal.

Behind the scenes: For years, Appropriations Committee members have privately complained about the absence of earmarks.

  • “Congress has the power of the purse laid out by the Constitution, directing where U.S. taxpayer dollars will go," a committee aide said."The idea that some bureaucrat in D.C. has a better idea of where funding should go in these districts and states, than the representatives themselves, is absurd."
  • The aide said most Appropriations Committee members share the sentiment.

Leahy and other pro-earmarks lawmakers have a couple of tools to help restore earmarks:

Joe Biden. He was very effective in using earmarks while in the Senate, and successfully used them to get funding for Dover Air Force Base and other projects in Delaware.

  • While no one in the executive branch will openly admit they like earmarks, since they cede power to Congress, the president "certainly understands earmarks and their value," one aide said.
  • Biden has been quiet about the topic, a sign he's giving Congress breathing room to negotiate.

Fresh guardrails. Democrats plan to implement new restrictions making it far more difficult to misuse earmarks.

  • A series of scandals involving members abusing the process prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011.
  • The new rules would limit the number of requests each lawmaker can make; require each earmark to have community support; cap total funding projects to 1% of all discretionary spending, and require members to post their earmark requests on their websites.

The bottom line: The longer they stray from 2011 and the more turnover in their chambers, members of Congress will find it more difficult to reinstitute them.

Go deeper: Here come Earmarks 2.0.

"Nine minutes and 29 seconds": Prosecutors begin closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Steve Schleicher, an attorney for the prosecution in Derek Chauvin's trial, began closing arguments on Monday by describing in detail George Floyd's last moments — crying out for help and surrounded by strangers, as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial, seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades, will reverberate across the country and have major implications in the fight for racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less

European soccer goes to war over wealthy clubs' plans for exclusive "Super League"

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Keep reading... Show less

81% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive earnings surprise for Q1

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

Keep reading... Show less

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hopping the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

Keep reading... Show less

All U.S. adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, meeting Biden's April 19 deadline

All 50 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have now made U.S. adults over the age of 16 eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, meeting President Biden's April 19 deadline.

Why it matters: The landmark speaks to the increased pace of the national vaccination campaign, but will increase pressure on the federal government, states and pharmaceutical companies to provide adequate vaccine supply and logistics.

Keep reading... Show less

Minneapolis braces for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial

Minneapolis is waking up to images of an occupied city on Monday, as the city and the world await a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

What it's like: Residents running errands, picking up dinner and heading to the dog park in recent days encountered heavily-armed National Guard troops stationed throughout the city.

Keep reading... Show less

Russian authorities say jailed opposition leader Navalny has been transferred to hospital

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been hospitalized, one day after his doctor warned that the jailed Putin critic "could die at any moment," Russia's prison service said Monday.

Why it matters: News that Navalny's condition had severely deteriorated on the third week of a hunger strike prompted outrage from his supporters and international demands for Russia to provide him with immediate medical treatment.

Keep reading... Show less

The state worst hit by the pandemic

Data: Hamilton Place Strategies; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the job facing governments was to save lives and save jobs. Very few states did well on both measures, while New York, almost uniquely, did particularly badly on both.

Why it matters: The jury is still out on whether there was a trade-off between the dual imperatives; a new analysis from Hamilton Place Strategies shows no clear correlation between the two.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories