While any earmark would have been enough to prove that Congress violated the earmark moratorium that was established in the House and Senate at the beginning of the 112th Congress, there are many such examples that will be highlighted in CAGW’s 2012 Congressional Pig Book which will be released on April 17. The 2012 Pig Book will show that while the practice of earmarking still lingers, Congress has made significant progress toward reducing the number and cost of earmarks.
Unfortunately, it now appears that the current earmark moratorium is in danger. A March 30, 2012 Reuters article noted that Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) proposed bringing back earmarks in a closed-door meeting regarding the House transportation bill in early March. The recommendation to allow earmarks was in response to recent political gridlock. Rep. Rogers joins a growing bipartisan list of members who have called for the resurrection of earmarks.
Taxpayers often hear from their elected officials that earmarks are good and bring back federal dollars to their district. Historically, approximately 60 percent of earmarks has gone to the majority party, while 40 percent has gone to the minority party. Awarding taxpayer funds on the basis of political power instead of merit is a deceptive practice that encourages backroom deal-making, vote swapping, and other political game-playing.
In addition to inviting fraudulent behavior, earmarking diverts lawmakers’ attention from important national business, like controlling the nation’s ballooning $15.6 trillion debt. At one point, many congressional offices had one or more staffers dedicated solely to procuring earmarks.
Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have sponsored S. 1930, the Earmark Elimination Act, which is intended to build upon and make permanent the current earmark moratorium that is set to expire at the end of 2012. Unfortunately, this legislation, which was offered as an amendment to the STOCK Act in February, failed in a 40 to 59 vote.
Congress has made significant progress under the current earmark moratorium. Lawmakers should support S. 1930 and work with thier colleagues to ensure that earmarks never return. Any attempt to revive the practice of earmarking will be detrimental to taxpayers, members of Congress, and to the entire legislative process. The earmark ban has already given lawmakers more time to devote their attention to critical issues instead of to special interests, and has saved taxpayers billions of dollars that would otherwise be squandered on frivolous projects.