Some of the most prominent Republicans in the obstruction caucus claimed they were against spending on personal projects — a system known in Congress as “earmarks” — and then turned around and requested funds for their own districts.
Not only are Byron Donalds, Lauren Boebert, and others in their Congressional clique against building bridges in the metaphorical sense, they also stand against earmarking funds for literal bridges and other projects.
At least, they did, until the projects were in their own districts — and the requests for earmarks were their own.
House Republicans are at it again with the battle that seems to energize and fortify them, while exhausting and frustrating the regular citizens who have to carry on their normal lives through the fight over the Congressional budget and the evergreen threat to shut down the government if they don’t get their way.
This time, though, the battle includes a list of pet projects from the same folks who said they supported banning earmarks for pet projects.
There’s also Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who has opposed earmarks but now wants more than $14 million for projects in her district, including $1.6 million for a 4-mile paved trail for non-automobile traffic and $3.8 million for an airport runway expansion.
And Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), who’s looking for around $30 million for improving systems around his district for water systems, including distribution, treatment, and wastewater/sewage, as well as millions more for projects to improve docks, jetties, and other coastal features.
And Congressman Lance Gooden (R-TX), who wants about $23 million for projects including a residential care center for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and a radar system for the Mesquite Metro Airport.
The projects themselves all have merits — the problem comes with the hypocrisy.
All five have previously called for banning earmarks for similar projects, but are suddenly in favor of them for their own requests.
“’We, the undersigned, pledge that we will not request earmarks, or the preferred euphemism of the day, Community Project Funding,’ the GOP lawmakers pledged [in 2021]. The group of fiscally conservative lawmakers who signed the letter represented a range of primarily rural districts from Colorado to Virginia,” The Messenger quoted their manifesto:
Community projects are a euphemism, they say?
How interesting, then, that that’s the term three of the five (Donalds, Harris, and Gooden) use themselves.
Though it’s Republicans who are currently straddling the fence by both opposing and requesting earmarks, there’s a longstanding divide not only in how the funds are used but in the amounts requested, according to a 2021 report from the Brookings Institute:
“When we change our unit of analysis to the earmark amount, we see that Republicans asked for $3 million more per earmark than Democrats ($4.7 million for Republicans; $1.7 million for Democrats). At the individual member level, Republicans requested over $20 million more than Democrats.”
Their report also examines the groups “targeted” in these appropriations by party, showing that, for instance, Democratic requests tend to be about 12.9% directed towards the “poor or working class” demographic, compared to 2.9% of Republican projects.
Democrats are also more likely to request funding for projects benefitting youth, schools, and racial or ethnic minorities.
Republican projects tend to be focused on infrastructure, transportation, and — perhaps surprisingly, given their messaging —drinking water and the environment, according to the charts in the report.
Bearing that in mind, it’s notable that these prominent Republicans, who said they opposed all earmarks, were quite willing to request millions of dollars in earmarks, for projects that align tidily with their party’s usual dismal choices.