While lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the omnibus spending bill earlier this month, Congressional Quarterly (CQ) reports some lawmakers are concerned the bill represents a return of earmarks -- provisions in legislation that direct budgetary resources to specific projects, usually in a particular legislator’s district.
Joshua B. Gordon, policy director for The Concord Coalition, says these concerns are misplaced and that Congress, by passing appropriations bills, is operating its power of the purse.
“There is, from a congressional power perspective, still this correct desire on the part of appropriators to put the money into where the policy priorities are. A lot of people claim all of that to be earmarks, but it’s really Congress exercising the power of the purse and I think there is sometimes a problem looking at congressional action as pork,” he told CQ.
The Jan. 22 story, “Omnibus Raises Debate: Pork or Policy Directive?”, says anti-earmark legislators such as Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (R-Oakl.) voted against the omnibus bill out of concerns that the condensed time to negotiate and debate the bill allowed legislators to include earmarks and policy riders that did not belong in an omnibus. Earmarks have been banned in Congress since 2010.
Top appropriators fought against these accusations, saying they did not use the omnibus to legislate policy or add funding for parochial projects.
Gordon said Congress “is directing where the spending goes instead of having the executive branch do that.” He added what really matters now is that Congress makes sure to adhere to the spending caps that were modified by the bipartisan budget agreement that was signed into law late last year.