The Return of Earmarks?

On Tuesday, according to the Washington Post, President Trump fully endorsed earmarks as a “lubricant to grease the gears of government.” Trump himself said that “a lot of the pros are saying that, if you want to get along and if you want this country really rolling again, you have to look at [earmarks].”

However, the days of earmarks were not as great as Trump thinks they were. For example, “former Congressman Randy Cunningham literally had a ‘bribe menu’ that told defense contractors exactly how much they could pay for him to deliver earmarks to their businesses.” The ‘menu’ included things like a yacht and prostitutes. Further, in 2005, Congress earmarked $223 million to build a “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska. In 2007, Nancy Pelosi “imposed a one-year moratorium on earmarks when she became speaker.” Then in 2011, John Boehner banned them altogether.

While President Trump alluded to the past abuses on earmarks, he said, “we have to put better controls because it got a little bit out of hand, but maybe that brings people together.” Conservative groups are furious with the president’s statements. It appears that Trump is not aware of the previous disasters caused by earmarks including the incidents with Jack Abramoff, Bob Ney, Jack Murtha and Ted Stevens. There is general concern brewing that the President lacks the basic historical knowledge to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

The only action on the earmarks issue so far is that the House Rules Committee will hold two hearings next week on ending the moratorium. The chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions, “said he thinks it can be done in a ‘transparent and meritorious’ way.” Senator Jeff Flake, on the other hand, played a key role in killing earmarks and thinks it is not a good idea to bring them back. Killing earmarks was one of Sen. Flake’s proudest political achievements. However, he realizes that “his brand of principled conservatism is falling out of favor in the Republican Party.” Many Democrats believe running on an anti-earmark platform in 2018 could boost their popularity.

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