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Democrats hope earmarks will break gridlock

Democrats in Congress are hoping to reintroduce earmarks to Congress in the upcoming term (https://www.npr.org/2020/12/09/944314781/democrats-want-to-bring-earmarks-back-as-way-to-break-gridlock-in-congress). Several members of Democratic leadership including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (SC) have argued that earmarks will provide common ground for Republicans and Democrats, providing greater opportunity for compromise, allowing more legislation to be passed. One of the major problems Congress is currently facing is the inability to come to an agreement on the next round of COVID relief.


Earmarks were initially banned in 2011 under the leadership of then House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). Democrats had previously made significant changes to the practice back in 2007, but hadn’t fully banned it. During his time in office former President Barack Obama even said that he would veto any bills that included earmarks. One of the primary reasons that earmarks were banned was because of increased abuses of the program.


Both parties have tried to reinstate earmarks but have not been successful. Since banning earmarks, spending has moved more and more to the executive branch and the long list of executive agencies that make up the vast bureaucracy. Rep. Hoyer said "My belief is that members of Congress elected from 435 districts around the country know, frankly, better than those who may be in Washington what their districts need." Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution clearly outlines the “power of the purse” granted to the legislative branch. While more spending is not ideal, moving it back to its rightful place may be a small step in the right direction.


While many Republicans are vocal about their opposition, even permanently banning the practice in their internal party rules last year, Democrats are insistent that there is quiet support among several Republicans in both the House and Senate. Will this measure find bipartisan support, or are Democrats wishful thinkers?

Image Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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