Senate GOP Keeps Earmark Ban in Place

Flake amendment passes

Jeff Flake

Jeff Flake / AP

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Senate Republicans voted on Tuesday to keep a moratorium on earmarks during the 115th Congress.

An amendment to the Senate Republican Conference rules offered by Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), a leading opponent of earmarks, passed by voice vote.

"Resolved, that it is the policy of the Republican Conference that no Member shall request a congressionally directed spending item, limited tax benefit, or limited tariff benefit, as such items are used in Rule XLIV of the Standing Rules of the Senate for the 115th Congress," the amendment reads.

Though the self-imposed ban will remain in place, earmarks have found their way into the budget since congressional Republicans issued the moratorium in 2011.

Flake released a report in 2015 that found hundreds of millions had been spent on earmarks despite the ban. The earmarks funded pet projects for grape research and subsidies for a ballet theater in the richest congressional district in America, among other things.

Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit taxpayer watchdog group, has also documented pork-barrel spending that has continued under the moratorium. Congress approved $5.1 billion in earmarks in fiscal 2016, the group found.

Not all Republicans are happy with the ban. A group of House members attempted to roll back the restrictions on earmarks shortly after the presidential election. The effort failed.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) unilaterally stopped the measure, saying it would be inappropriate to reinstate earmarks two weeks following a "drain the swamp" election.

Elizabeth Harrington   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Elizabeth Harrington is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Elizabeth graduated from Temple University in 2010. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, she worked as a staff writer for CNSNews.com. Her email address is elizabeth@freebeacon.com. Her Twitter handle is @LizWFB.