It appears that earmarks will remain “taboo” when the new congress convenes in January. During organizational meetings the week before Thanksgiving, the House Republicans voted to extend the current ban on earmarking for the entire two years of the 113th Congress. That leaves the House Democrats, who meet for their organizational meetings on Thursday, no choice but to accept a continuation of those rules. The Senate Republicans also voted to refrain from adding earmarks to appropriations bills in the next two years. That leaves the Senate Democrats with little choice but to go along — because writing in special line-items of spending for their favorite university research centers, highway expansions, urban renewal projects and the like would look unprincipled and politically inept if they’re acting unilaterally (and, besides, doing so would be pointless so long as the House won’t go along with writing any spending-bill conference reports with earmarks included). Many senior lawmakers would like to see a return of what they call “directed spending,” but they concede there’s no way for that to happen until the fiscal cliff is averted and deficit reduction efforts are well underway. So it looks like it could be the middle of the decade, at the earliest, that we could see the practice of earmarking return to Congress.
November 27, 2012