Ryan Bernstein Comments on Return of Earmarks to Congress

March 4, 2021

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House Democrats are bringing back earmarks to Congress this session after the practice was banned ten years ago. McGuireWoods Consulting senior vice president, Ryan Bernstein, provided insight in a March 3 interview with SpectrumNews1 on the history of earmarks and how they’ll be used moving forward.

“Sen. McConnell, back when the earmark ban was put in place ten years ago, actually argued not to do the ban because it would give a blank check to the administration to do whatever it wanted,” Bernstein said. “There’s not much getting done in D.C. these days and really nothing is happening on a bipartisan basis so this could be an incentive, a first step in getting the legislative wheels turning again in Washington D.C.”

The measure is controversial as many see the practice as a sign of government waste, while others argue earmarks fund federal projects in communities, such as a bridge or park, and that the practice has continued since the ban under a different name.

“The House Democrats have proposed some guardrails. They’ve proposed capping overall money spent on earmarks to 1% of the discretionary funding. Lawmakers can’t submit more than 10 earmarks per bill and all requests have to be posted online. And of course, you shouldn’t even have to say this, but lawmakers’ families can’t benefit from the earmarks and it can’t go for a for-profit entity,” Bernstein noted.

He added, “It might make sense for Republicans to get back on the earmark train. It would allow them to redirect some of the dollars away from President Biden’s agenda and more toward issues they support.”