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Op-ed Placement

Pork-Barrel Earmarks Begin to Poison Washington

BY Sarah Anderson and Rep. Ted Budd
Originally Published in The Washington Examiner by Sarah Anderson and Rep. Ted Budd on 5/26/21.

Taxpayers across the country are getting their first looks at what the Washington swamp is like in the new earmark era. It’s not a pretty sight.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives brought back the practice of earmarking for the first time in 10 years.

At the time, conservatives warned that opening this wasteful Pandora’s box would allow the big spenders in Congress once again to have an opportunity to belly up to the pork-barrel buffet on the taxpayers’ dime. We warned that taxpayer dollars would be spent on ridiculous projects and parochial political interests.

House conservatives even sent a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on March 10, 2021, saying, “Nothing epitomizes what’s wrong with Washington more than pork-barrel spending in the form of congressional earmarks.”

The only saving grace about the new earmark system is that members are now forced to disclose each and every request for taxpayer funding. But even these new rules haven’t stopped House members from attempting to grab funding for questionable purposes.

For example, Democratic Rep. Donald Payne Jr. requested $436,100 for a "meditation and restorative yoga program" in New Jersey.

New York Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries requested $742,000 for a program promising "inclusion and healthy discussions around difficult issues such as racism, gender discrimination, and cultural bias.”

California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren made two separate requests for $1 million each for Planned Parenthood clinics.

California Democratic Rep. Lou Correa asked for $2 million for a pickleball court in Orange County.

If these members get their way, this funding will be tucked into a giant spending bill without debate or any form of merit-based scrutiny. This is just the beginning. As earmarks pervade Washington again, the requests will continue to escalate in their absurdity.

It’s not surprising that Democrats resurrected a tool loved by the Washington swamp. President Joe Biden has been in Washington since America’s first gas crisis in the 1970s, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been in Congress since the Reagan administration, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been marinating in the swamp for four decades.

Earmarks make their jobs easier. They allow congressional leadership to use taxpayer money as a quasi-legalized form of bribery to cajole members of Congress to vote for deficit-busting spending bills and other priorities that would violate a politician’s principles.

The House’s first salvo of pork-barrel spending totals almost $6 billion. That number will only increase as Congress re-acclimates itself with feeding at the taxpayer trough. That’s why it’s more important than ever for earmarks to be permanently banned before they get totally out of control again. Conservatives should support a bill called the Earmark Elimination Act, which would do just that.

We need to show the people that our leaders are committed to ending business as usual in Washington. Leaders aren't elected to perpetuate this town’s spending addiction. They're here to end it.

Ted Budd (@RepTedBudd) represents North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. Sarah Anderson (@smayranderson) is the director of policy at FreedomWorks.