Legislator takes stand in support of earmarks

Idaho representative advocates practice as a way to limit the executive branch’s influence over spending decisions.

Just when critics had everyone convinced that earmarked projects are evil, along comes Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. Simpson is on a one-man crusade to clean up the image of pork-barrel projects.

His goal is to convince folks who want to put the kibosh on earmarks that the projects are good for America, that they will help balance the budget and curtail the growth of the federal government. "I just want an honest debate," Simpson said in a recent interview. "I get a little tired of the rhetoric in this place," he added, referring to critics who knock members who ask for millions -- if not billions -- of dollars for their districts.

Simpson said he is particularly disturbed because no project that the president requests is ever identified as an earmark. The House Appropriations Committee recently tried to make that point by identifying administration requests in the $91 billion defense and disaster relief supplemental spending bill as earmarks.

Simpson also goes to great lengths to remind people that the "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska that caused so much indigestion last year was tucked into the massive highway reauthorization bill; it was not part of the transportation appropriations spending bill.

Simpson has a special interest in trying to keep pork on the menu. He is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and its Energy and Water Development Subcommittee -- the panel that doles out money for such agencies as the Army Corps of Engineers. A former speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives, he's a veteran of political infighting. And as a practicing dentist, he's used to causing people to squirm.

Some fiscal conservatives say that earmarking goes against their principles. Simpson disagrees. And he's circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter that states his case in great detail. First, he makes the timeworn argument that the Constitution gives the power of the purse to Congress.

But he goes further -- actually implying that outlawing earmarking would be unconstitutional. "Ending the practice of earmarking would transfer massive funding authority to the president, and federal agencies, in defiance of the Constitution," Simpson contends.

He goes on to say that earmarking does not increase the federal budget, because each pork project comes under the discretionary spending cap imposed by the budget resolution that Congress passes each year. In addition, earmarking shifts federal money away from the discretion of federal agencies and into the hands of local officials.

"Earmarked dollars generally go to projects that are short-term in nature and small in scope," he wrote. If the money did not go to those projects, it would wind up in Washington-operated programs that would never end, Simpson argued.

Finally, he said, earmarking keeps spending decisions in the hands of members of Congress, rather than giving them to bureaucrats. In other words, earmarks are so conservative that Ronald Reagan would have loved them.

Simpson said he favors "transparency" that would require every member to identify the earmarks he or she requests. He said he already posts his earmarks on his Web site. (Of course, taking credit for money brought back home is not a bad idea.) "I told people if they were wasteful, we'd talk about it," Simpson said.

Some conservatives don't buy Simpson's argument. "Maybe we shouldn't be spending that money at all," said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., the most outspoken earmark critic in the House. Flake said the constitutional argument falls apart when politics enter the picture.

In recent years, Republican subcommittee chairmen have been known to refuse earmarks for Democrats who don't support appropriations bills. "Your constitutional right to earmarks only applies if you're a Republican and you support the underlying bill," Flake said.

Flake says that appropriators are only trying to maintain a system that they have benefited from for years. Simpson counters that they are simply trying to respond to the needs of lawmakers and the nation. Time will tell whether Simpson wins or whether Flake can convince members that appropriators are just trying to cover their own assets.

NEXT STORY: FBI: No Love for Dot-Gov

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.