The debate over earmarks has caused a divide among GOP senators as they prepare to vote on restoring the controversial tactic next week, but Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines has suggestions that could affect how Republicans vote – a public record.
“Nothing screams D.C. swamp more than a secret vote to overturn a ban on earmarks that would unleash wasteful spending and make lobbyists rich on the taxpayers’ dime,” Daines said Friday. “If we’re voting on this pay-for-play tactic, it should be public.”
Nearly a month after House Republicans voted to reinstate earmarks — a practice that allocates funds for special projects in larger spending bills — Senate Republicans are divided on the consequences of removing the decade-old ban.
Republicans banned earmarks in 2011 following concerns over corruption and wasteful spending, but some now believe it could be a useful tool for pushing through bipartisan legislation.
But the vote set to be held Wednesday, could be cast in secret – causing further frustration for GOP senators ardently opposed to earmarks.
In an attempt to counter votes in favor of reinstating earmarks, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is expected to introduce an amendment that would require the Republican conference to record their vote, as well as language that would limit “certain types of earmark requests,” first reported Politico.
Daines, along with several other GOP senators, including Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, introduced legislation prior to the Republican House vote last month that would ban all earmark spending.
“For decades, Congress abused the trust and faith of the American people by handing out earmarks to well-connected businesses, campaign donors, and others who could afford a high-priced lobbyist,” Rubio said. “Those backroom deals led to corruption and waste, and bought votes in Congress for unpopular legislation.”
But not all GOP senators are convinced earmarks are unpopular with voters or lead to corruption and over spending.
South Carolina Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, has said he supports the options that earmarks give lawmakers – echoing a sentiment previously held by Donald Trump.
“The top Republican in the country, meaning Trump, supports earmarks, and why shouldn’t we?” Graham suggested to his colleagues during a closed door Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, Axios reported last month.
House Democrats have also allowed for the return of earmarks under “community project funding.”