Attempt to Restore Earmarks Fails

Ryan: 'We just had a drain the swamp election'

U.S. Capitol building
U.S. Capitol building / AP
November 16, 2016

An attempt by several Republicans to resurrect earmarks in the new Congress failed Wednesday after House leadership blocked the measure.

Two amendments were withdrawn from a conference rules vote. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan stopped the measure "unilaterally" during the closed conference session.

One amendment sponsored by Reps. John Culberson (R., Texas), Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), and Thomas Rooney (R., Fla.) would have allowed earmarks in certain cases, including pet projects for the Department of Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Bureau of Reclamation. Rep. Rooney had a separate plan to allow earmarks specifically for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The optics of reviving much-maligned pork barrel spending just over a week after the election of Donald Trump, who promised to "drain the swamp," did not sit well with many Republicans.

"We just had a drain the swamp election," Ryan said. "We don't want to turn around two weeks later and have earmarks."

Reviving earmarks was strongly opposed by several conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, which spent the past two days calling constituents of the sponsoring representatives.

"Club for Growth made thousands of phone calls to alert constituents in the districts of John Culberson and Mike Rogers to warn them that these are the guys who are fighting to bring earmarks back," said David McIntosh, the president of Club for Growth. "And we're thrilled that many of those constituents have called their offices to say this cronyism needs to stop."

"Remember the 'Bridge to Nowhere'?" McIntosh said on the call. "It's vital that we say no to earmarks."

"Earmarks are the 'broken windows' of federal overspending, the currency of congressional corruption, and the price of bad votes for more spending," said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.

Citizens Against Government Waste, which has documented billions in earmarks that have slipped through since the moratorium began in 2010, praised Speaker Ryan.