Securing Backdoor for Earmarks?

This week, senators introduced a massive water and infrastructure bill (sub. req’d) that calls for changes in spending in deepwater harbors and speeds up project construction.  According to reports, it will allow for “new projects in a way that doesn’t run afoul of Capitol Hill’s earmark ban.”  It may, however, “offer room for earmarks.”

The draft Water Resources Development Act appears to provide a relief valve for lawmakers anxious to get new projects into the pipeline by creating an umbrella authorization for projects that meet certain criteria.

Any project carried out in accordance with a plan as well as any criteria the Army Corps of Engineers requires would be considered authorized as long as a Chief of Engineers report has been completed and the corps has referred it to Congress by the date the bill is enacted, according to the draft.

That stands in contrast to the usual WRDA bill, which contains lists of specific projects for authorization contributed by lawmakers. It’s not necessarily a done deal — the projects would still have to be funded through the appropriations process.

This isn’t exactly straightforward, but it does demonstrate some desire remains for member directed spending.  It wouldn’t be the first time that lawmakers have tried to circumvent the earmark ban.  Earmarks engender corruption and cronyism in lawmakers.

There is a direct correlation between more earmarks and more federal spending, which is intuitive but has also been indicated by research produced by the Office of Management and Budget.

Heritage Action will continue to monitor the bill as it moves through Congress to ensure it doesn’t open up a backdoor for earmarks.
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