Institutional Corruptionist Steny Hoyer Gets His Dream: Earmarks Are Coming Back

The sclerotic, geriatric leaders of the House Democrats are so delusional and out of touch with America now that they have decided to bring back earmarks, one of the symbols of congressional corruption. Maybe they figure they are so hated anyone-- they lost a dozen congressional seats-- even though the voters kicked Trump out of office-- that perhaps they figure it doesn't matter and they might as well cash in while they can.

Earlier today, Steny Hoyer (D-MD), one of the most corrupt fiends to ever walk the has of Congress, announced that he and his cronies-- just 2 days after being renominated (without opposition) for leadership posts by a party on a suicide mission-- have decided to overturn the reform that banned earmarks.

The 3 candidates for the open chair of the House Approproiations Committee are Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL), one of the only members of Congress even more corrupt and loathsome than Hoyer. Although DeLauro, she has joined the other two in endorsing the idea. Watch this video that Fox News ran castigating the crooked earmark deals Ken Calvert (R-CA) was doing-- and imagine what they will do with Democrats who re-open this can of worms-- or asps.

Writing for Roll Call, Jennifer Shutt reported that "Hoyer said all three support, with leadership’s backing, transparency measures similar to those in place a decade ago before the practice was banned entirely. That includes making a project’s requestor publicly available as well as the justification for spending taxpayer dollars on it, and clearly noting in legislation which provisions constitute member-requested items."

Hoyer just threw a monkey wrench into the Georgia Senate races, stupidly telling Shutt that he isn’t concerned that Senate Republicans’ permanent ban on earmarks will complicate negotiations on appropriations bills if the GOP keeps control of that chamber following two Georgia runoffs on Jan. 5. 'I don’t expect it to be a partisan effort. Now that doesn’t mean that everybody does participate,' he said. 'But I know there are a lot of Republicans on our side and a lot of Republicans on the Senate side who want to... have the ability to invest in their states.'"

Democrats and Republicans have been talking about bringing back earmarks since just after Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, added a ban to House GOP rules in 2011. Senate Democrats followed a few months later with the support of President Barack Obama.
Senate Republicans made their earmark prohibition permanent last year, but several party members, including Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), support bringing the practice back.
When Democrats regained control of the House in 2019 the prohibition on earmarking in that chamber technically ended, and internal discussions began about when and how to bring back congressionally directed spending. Lowey opted not to bring back earmarks during this session after receiving pushback from new, more moderate members of the Democratic Caucus who were concerned about oversight, transparency and the politics of bringing back earmarks.

I asked Liam O'Mara, the progressive who took on Calvert this cycle-- with no help at all from the DCCC-- and did better against him than any Democrat ever had in the past. O'Mara plans to take Calvert on again in 2022. "If Members of Congress want something done for their districts," he told me this afternoon, "they should propose a bill and get it to the floor. Tacking unrelated things onto bills with wide support is a corrupt and dishonest practice, and one reason most Americans do not trust Congress with their money. Crooked Ken Calvert has used earmarks for decades to enrich himself and his cronies, and in such a nakedly corrupt manner that even Fox News attacked him for it.

I reached out to half a dozen progressives but no one wants dto comment until I spoke with a chief of staff who told me to keep it off the record since he wasn't authorized to talk about it. He told me he hasn't "heard anyone complaining about it. Frankly it might make this place run a little better."

I want to run his view since it contrasts with my own and it's better to present both sides of this argument, particularly because this is coming from a thoughtful and well-connected progressive in the House. He told me his own view "is we should have earmarks (done in a responsible and public way). Sunlight is the best disinfectant-- if Members put in bad earmarks we should name and shame them. But we shouldn't abdicate the power of the purse to the executive. We already do that with too much. The truth is earmarks never went away-- anonymous bureaucrats in the executive branch still select projects to get funded, but we have no say over how that money is spent. Now during the Obama Administration I had some degree of confidence that there was a good faith effort to fund things in a responsible way. But under a Trump Administration no telling how many of his buddies got their hands on government money. Anyway-- I used to work for an appropriator and used to vet earmark requests, so this is something I have some experience with. Honestly it makes my job easier if we don't have them-- but then I suppose ceding war powers to the executive makes my job easier too. Congress should be a place where people make tough decisions, not just hand everything over to the executive branch."

UPDATE: Matt Cartwright (D-PA)

I know Matt pretty well, and I can tell you something I am certain of: he is not corrupt. He's about as far from a Steny Hoyer or Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Ken Calvert as someone can be. And he just sent me this note about earmarks:

"I support reinstatement of legislatively-directed spending, and here’s why. It helps Congress do its job. And, for Members of Congress who feel they are not being paid enough to do their jobs, it provides extra incentive for them to do it.

"In 2013, my first year in Congress, the Freedom Caucus crowd, egged on by one Senator Ted Cruz, refused to vote for John Boehner’s Appropriations bills to fund the federal government after October 1, as a way of protesting the new healthcare law. We had a 16-day government shutdown, so the right wingers could protest implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I couldn’t believe it.

"To the Freedom Caucus members, shutting the government down sounded like a great idea. Think of all the money we’ll save instead of paying money for lazy, shiftless, do-nothing government employees!

"The problem was, as the frenzied nitwits danced around their bonfire, they never stopped to imagine the wide spectrum of federal agencies they were shuttering, the workers they were sending home, and the broader effect on the U.S. economy.

"And so it was that in their shutdown, this grand obelisk to denying healthcare to ordinary Americans, fissures began to appear. First, these wingnuts were amazed to find out they were shutting down citizens’ access to veterans memorials, and cemeteries. Bewildered, they blamed National Park Rangers-- whose pay they had stopped-- for skullduggery. Then, they were shocked to discover that the shutdown was causing government contractors-- including defense industry contractors-- to have to lay off thousands of workers, because the Defense Department employees who handled their accounts were furloughed. Next, they were astonished to hear of impending meat shortages, because packing plants could not operate in the absence of U.S.D.A. inspectors.

"In my own district, people felt the pain from this idiocy. Because the National Park Service was closed, the tourism industry surrounding federal parks suffered. In northeastern Pennsylvania, the closure of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area-- at the height of the fall foliage season-- cost their local economy $400,000 a day. This picture was replicated for over 400 National Parks in the country.

"Finally, it dawned on these great congressional geniuses that sending 800,000 U.S. workers home with no pay was going to have a ripple effect throughout the American economy that would mean a loss of $10 billion a week in economic activity.

"After the standoff ended, frustrated and befuddled, and faced with the lowest public-approval ratings in years, the GOP-led House began face-saving Oversight hearings that attempted to show that the Obama administration had somehow intentionally sabotaged the workings of the federal government to make the effects of a shutdown look worse than it was.

"Congressionally-directed spending is a way to help avoid this sort of lunacy. It gives members of Congress, on both sides if the aisle, a direct stake in the passage of Appropriations bills-- the bills that keep the government open-- by allowing them to designate specified portions of the spending in their home districts. It also provides a mechanism of control for House leaders who are trying to corral votes for other bills they are trying to pass. Since congressionally-designated spending was abolished in 2011, there have been several government shutdowns, first the 16-day 2013 shutdown over Obamacare, and most recently the 35-day 2018-19 Trump shutdown, also over Obamacare.

"I reject the argument that congressionally-directed spending is wasteful, pork-barreling, earmarks. It is true that in the past there were examples of abuses. The difference is that we can prohibit these grants from going to private companies, and we can provide mechanisms of transparency and accountability. We can require members of Congress to justify to the public why the money going to their districts is needed, and will be an effective use of federal funds. The way to avoid “Bridge to Nowhere” public projects is to add sunlight, and give the public a chance to stop them before they get started.

"Let’s not forget that Article I of the Constitution says Congress is to have the power of the purse. What we do now, in delegating that power to agencies of the executive branch, so that unelected bureaucrats can decide where federal money is spent, is a perversion of what the founders intended. I say let’s give Congress another chance to try harder to do its Constitutional duty, and get it right.

"It’s a proven technique to stop government shutdowns. It’s a great way to take power away from the imbeciles."