The House GOP voted to reverse a ban on earmarks within their caucus Wednesday, as Democrats prep to bring the practice back to Congress.
To keep up with Democrats, Republicans voted 102 to 84 to reverse a ban within the party on earmarks, which allow lawmakers to secure funding for pet projects in their home district, sometimes in exchange for voting a certain way. The practice has been rebranded as “community project funding.”
Republicans in the lower chamber banned the practice with the Tea Party wave in 2011, citing abuse and corruption, and the Democrat-led Senate did so soon after under President Obama.
GOP members of the House Freedom Caucus have avidly opposed the return of the practice since Democrats first revealed they were looking to bring it back. They circulated a letter last week to turn up the heat on all Republicans to oppose earmarks.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, circulated the letter again, inviting any member of Congress to sign it.
“Why isn’t every member of Congress signing this?” wrote former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Twitter, wading into the debate.
“The Republican Party should be ashamed of itself, for embracing earmarks, when the American people are staring $30 trillion in debt, businesses shut down, when we spent $6 trillion in the last year, destroying our economy, shutting down businesses and harming the American people,” Roy said moments after the vote.
“This is a mistake,” wrote Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C. on Twitter. Budd has been at the forefront of the campaign against earmarks. “Earmarks are tools of the DC swamp and Republicans should not participate.”
"Members want to have a say in their own district," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., – @GOPLeader – said after the House Republican conference voted on a secret ballot to overturn its earmark ban.
Proponents of the measure say that banning earmarks handed too much power to the executive branch. They also point to new transparency measures that would be implemented to avoid abuse.
Former White House communications director Alyssa Farah also defended the practice.
“In theory, conservatives should oppose earmarks. In practice, the earmark ban ended up ceding the power of the purse to the executive, leading to bigger government, bigger spending and less congressional oversight,” she said.
Under Republicans' specifications, lawmakers would have to submit requests in writing with a justification for why the project is necessary and neither the member nor their immediate family can have a financial interest in the project.
Under House Democrats' new plan, earmark requests would have to be made public online as they're submitted to the appropriations committee. Lawmakers would also only be able to request funding for up to 10 projects and funds are limited to 1% of discretionary spending.
Meanwhile, the Senate is drawing up its own bill to bring back earmarks.