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Earmarks' Demise Adds To Spending Panel Woes

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
McCain, a longtime opponent of earmarks, said the Appropriations Committee has lost some of its power without the ability to direct spending to pet projects.

Some experts believe the clout of the committee is waning given the divisive political focus on the budget and the deficit, as well as the self-imposed ban on earmarks. They also believe the panel’s recent great difficulty in getting the 12 annual spending bills into law has also made it a less desirable post.

“[The] Appropriations Committee has clearly lost its allure with the demise of earmarks and the imposition of spending caps under the Budget Control Act,” which was part of the deal struck in 2011 to raise the debt ceiling, Sarah Binder, a congressional historian at George Washington University said.

“The rise of polarized parties has also made this a less attractive assignment than in previous years,” Binder said. “This is a committee that was historically bipartisan. But that bipartisan era is long over. The result? A chamber that today typically fails to pass spending bills until they are folded into omnibus bills.”

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., who ranks behind Leahy and Harkin in seniority on Appropriations, has been selected as chairwoman.

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