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Bringing back earmarks: NH should just say no

January 13. 2018 11:41PM

House Speaker Paul Ryan (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Bad ideas never die.

In an attempt to restore some degree of discipline on a Republican caucus that has struggled to find and pass a common agenda despite GOP control of the House, Senate, and White House, Speaker Paul Ryan has floated the possibility of bringing back congressional earmarks as part of reforms to the budget process..

Earmarks allowed individual members of Congress, with the approval of leadership, to attach special projects to bills moving through Congress. Funding for projects back home was tacked onto the report accompanying the bill, after it had passed, and without any notice or chance to amend the pork-barrel spending out of the bill.

Of course, once congressmen secured earmarks to bring home the bacon, it was understood that they would help pass the overall bill into law.

Democrats on one side and the Freedom Caucus on the other give Ryan a narrow window to get 218 votes for anything. Restoring earmarks might give him leverage to help make business flow more smoothly in the House. You know, like the good old days.

Bringing back earmarks would betray every pledge to transparency and fiscal discipline that Republicans have made. Concerns about budget deficits went away long ago.

Even if Congress restores earmarking, New Hampshire's congressional delegation need not go along with it. We would ask our current congressional delegation and the growing slate of candidates seeking to join it if they will seek earmarks, or promise to avoid them.

This does not mean that our representatives should stop fighting for funding for local priorities. If New Hampshire projects deserve federal funding, we would expect the Granite State's two representatives and two senators to help make that happen.

There is no reason such funding need be secured through earmarks. If local projects are worthwhile, our delegation should be proud to offer them as amendments, whether in committee, or on the floor.

Such projects would be subject to open debate and amendment, and voters would see how every member of Congress voted on them.

Ryan acknowledged the errors of past budget practices, saying in an interview with C-SPAN on Friday, "We've got to make sure that we don't go back to pork barrel spending. ...I worry it would lead to bad government."

If enough members of Congress, and especially enough GOP candidates, stood up against earmarks, perhaps Ryan would abandon this bad idea.

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