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Earmarks Absent From Corps’, DOE’s Funding

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House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers and his panel crafted an Energy and water development spending bill free of earmarks that is in government watchdogs’ good graces.

Additionally, rather than fund a series of projects listed in the Corps’ budget request this year, Republicans opted instead to include $59 million in funding for projects in the navigation and flood control budget. The committee then required the Corps to provide Congress with a prioritized list of projects that would receive funding.

Although the committee will still lose direct control over which projects get funding, “it increases transparency by making them outline how, when and why they’re spending” funds on particular projects, said Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for the committee.

Additionally, appropriators are able to maintain a certain level of control over how the Corps doles out funds “while still maintaining the earmark ban,” Hing added.

Ellis said that while Congress needs to do more to “really open that black box” of executive branch decision-making, Republicans’ approach to the Corps’ budget is a solid first step.

“You can’t just sort of have this political vacuum where [Congress is] just writing checks and letting the administration make the decisions” on where money will be spent, Ellis argued.

Ellis said that short of new legislation to create stronger controls, Congress will have to be careful to conduct oversight over federal agencies such as the Corps — and at least at this point, Rogers seems to be taking up that cause.

Although Hing said the chairman’s focus on oversight is not connected to the earmark ban, Rogers seems to take that seriously, given the committee’s schedule. Since the start of the 112th Congress, the Appropriations Committee has held 143 oversight hearings, according to Hing.

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