The Hill Opinion
Earmarking is a tool of the D.C. swamp that allows members of Congress to funnel money directly to their pet projects in a spending bill, and it should never be part of how Congress decides to spend your money.
This is my first year on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the first year with earmarks in Congress since 2011, and I’m appalled to see hundreds of earmarks representing billions of dollars of pork shoved into the spending bills that fund our government.
This week I filed an amendment in committee to strip all 417 earmarks from the bills being considered. Those pet projects added up to $2.2 billion, and that was just in three of the 12 appropriations bills to be considered.
As D.C. moves to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill which is not paid for and the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion inflation bomb, it’s more important than ever for those of us in Washington who have worked in the real world to stand up against this waste and abuse like earmarks.
I will stand strong against this instrument of bribery and corruption that incentivizes Congress to vote for big, irresponsible spending packages.
Though earmarks were eliminated ten years ago after a series of waste, corruption, and abuse scandals — some ending in jail sentences — the pull of swamp politics has again brought earmarks back to Washington.
So long as politicians are looking to gain short-term credit for spending your money on pet projects, this story will end the same way: waste, corruption and abuse.
It’s exactly the kind of D.C. nonsense I left my hometown business to fight against in the Senate.
Earmarks work like this: When Congress is debating a spending package to fund the government, some individual senators or representatives would be allowed to send some amount of the cash directly to a pet project of their choice.
Without earmarks, funds are allocated through competitive and merit-based systems, and legislators support policies because they are good policies, not because they enrich fat cats in their districts.
In 2005, a $233 million “bridge to nowhere” project in Alaska brought the issue of earmark waste to light.
In a separate scandal also that year, a California representative was sentenced to eight years in prison for accepting millions in bribes from defense contractors in exchange for earmarks coming their way.
House Republicans banned earmarks in 2011 after backroom pork deals were a key part of passing ObamaCare.
This year, Democrats dredged earmarking up from the depths of the swamp and put it back in the halls of Congress.
Supporters of resurrecting earmarks say they are ‘bringing home the bacon’ to their home states and districts, when what they’re really doing is pushing the burden of their pork barrel spending onto our children and grandchildren.
Earmarks should be called what they are: Congressional payoffs to buy votes for the irresponsible, bloated spending bills that have put us $30 trillion in debt on a collision course with financial disaster.
Some say that by disclosing requests for earmarks, we can avoid the substantial abuse this system has caused in the past. That’s missing the point.
To be clear, I believe in transparency, and I’ve put it into practice. When I joined the Appropriations Committee this year, I made all requests I received for federal money publicly available on my website. You can read the list of requests here. I believe you should be able to see who is asking your representatives for your taxpayer money.
But disclosing requests for earmarks does not change that it is a currency of corruption by design.
Directing cash to a member of Congress’s pet projects gives the big government spenders a tool to buy votes on bills representatives otherwise might not support.
Prioritizing short-term gratification over long-term fiscal health is exactly the sort of thinking that got us into our current mess.
Some say that because Democrats will be engaging in earmarking, the money is going to be spent regardless and it might as well be Republicans spending it.
To me that argument ignores the simple truth at the heart of it: funneling taxpayer money to pet projects is wrong, and eliminating earmarks was one of the biggest victories over the D.C. swamp in recent memory.
I refuse to participate in this tool of the swamp that I believe is wrong and corrupt. This is exactly what Hoosiers sent me here from the business world to stand up against.