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Earmark Changes Unveiled

Some other Members who don’t list the information online, such as Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), said they provide their requests to local media. Napolitano said she had no problem with the new requirement. “It’s incumbent that we be as transparent as we can,” she said. “That should never be a problem, because the requests should be legitimate.”

Whether the new disclosures will result in a windfall of new requests or a tapering off remains a matter of contention. Appropriators had in the past resisted posting requests, arguing that they would be inundated with requests from lawmakers unwilling to say no to local groups.

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) said on balance more Members will submit more projects now, resulting in a pileup at the committee, but he still supports the change. “What the hell, it’s fine with me,” he said. “It’s just another way for me to demonstrate the worthy projects I’m trying to get funded in the Pittsburgh area.”

But Ellis predicted a dampening effect on requests, since lawmakers getting only a sliver of their projects funded could be deemed ineffective.

“I think they’ll be a little more conscious of what they’re likely to get funded rather than requesting funding for everything that crosses their desk,” he said.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) commended the new rules but said Democratic leaders should go further and ban any “monuments to me” as well as earmarks airdropped into conference reports — as Republicans have already unilaterally adopted.

Republicans have launched their own committee to come up with earmark reforms, but the Democratic move appears to be a pre-emptive strike.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) dismissed Republican criticism.

“The Republicans talk a good game but play a terrible one,” he said. “They’re the ones who quadrupled earmarks.”

But Hoyer acknowledged that not everyone will be happy with the new disclosures.“I think that will cause some consternation — Members get inundated with requests,” Hoyer said. But he said that more disclosure is a good thing.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a senior appropriator, said some Members might submit laundry lists of projects but others might be more responsible and not make trivial requests. “It might require Members to buck up and tell people no,” he said.

Simpson, meanwhile, said he is thinking of going a step further in changing how he requests earmarks and is considering a personal ban on earmarks to private entities.

“We’ve pretty much decided we aren’t going to do that, because of the connections that someone could draw between campaign contributions and earmarks,” he said.

Simpson said he wasn’t sure an outright ban on private earmarks was the right way to go, noting that the Predator Drone, an unmanned aircraft system, was an example of a private earmark that helped the country.

“But politically the connections that people can draw, rightly or wrongly, is probably not good for Congress,” he said.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the House’s chief earmark antagonist, said the new rule could lead to a horde of requests but said the announcement is still encouraging. “It’s nice to send these signals, but they’ve got to be followed up with action,” he said.

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