It’s been more than 10 years since earmarks were banned in Congress, but the return of “congressionally directed spending” is afoot. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the new chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, will announce in coming weeks a Democratic plan to reinstate earmarks in next fiscal year’s spending bills. The formal announcement could come as soon as this week.
The new process will be more transparent and limited to state and local governments and nonprofits that carry out quasi-government functions. As part of the new transparency requirements, the appropriations panels will disclose the details of each earmark – who requested it, and which entity would get the money. Members won’t be allowed to request earmarks for entities to which they have financial ties.
The return of earmarks would be a boon to Washington and Oregon cities, counties, ports, hospitals and universities. The Washington and Oregon congressional delegations have amassed impressive seniority in leadership positions, committee chairmanships and powerful membership on the Appropriations Committees. Both states have the clout to bring back significant resources to the Pacific Northwest and help communities of all sizes seek federal investments from a wide range of federal programs, including transportation, housing, public safety, water infrastructure, education and health care projects.
The return of earmarks would be a boon to Washington and Oregon cities, counties, ports, hospitals and universities. The Washington and Oregon congressional delegations have amassed impressive seniority in leadership positions, committee chairmanships and membership on Appropriations committees, which they can leverage to bring back significant financial resources to the Pacific Northwest.
Republicans ended the practice of earmarking when they took control of the House in 2011 following years of controversial projects and political scandals, which overshadowed the worthwhile local projects that received funding. Many lawmakers have been arguing for years that Congress should bring back earmarks, claiming they tap the local knowledge of members, give members a personal stake in spending bills and lead to increased bipartisan cooperation. In the absence of congressional earmarks, most federal grants are divvied up in a competitive process overseen by agency officials.
There’s a lot of questions still to be answered, not least of which is how Republican leadership in the House and Senate will respond. There are many Republicans who quietly support the earmark revival, but GOP leaders could prevent their caucuses from seeking earmarks in an attempt to show fiscal restraint and set Republicans apart.
CFM has a long track record of securing grants and earmarks for a wide range of public sector and non-profit clients and our team is geared up for the upcoming call for projects from congressional offices. Understanding the process, knowing the key players and crafting winnable projects is our specialty. If you are interested in learning more about earmarking opportunities in the appropriations process or the upcoming infrastructure package, don’t hesitate to reach out to our federal team.