Not only has the earmark ban been ineffective at reining in spending or reducing waste, fraud and abuse, the ban has also had the unintended consequence of making Washington even more dysfunctional. Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that the American people are deeply unhappy with Congress and the president, and overwhelmingly believe that our elected leaders need to start working together to tackle the challenges we face as a nation. Unfortunately, the earmark ban has made a challenging situation virtually impossible when it comes to getting things actually accomplished in Washington.
Whether the Pollyanna opponents of the earmark process want to admit it or not, the truth is that earmarks were an incredibly important tool in the legislative bargaining process. The legislative process is a lot more like sausage making than it is like Moses coming down from the mountain, and having the ability to use earmarks to fund important projects in a member’s district was a valuable tool in actually getting to 218 votes in the House. By banning earmarks, we have made actually passing legislation through both chambers, already a herculean task in a Washington mired in partisan gridlock, a virtual impossibility.
The earmark ban was a classic Washington overreaction. While proponents of the earmark ban may have had good intentions, the truth is that not only has it not served its intended purposes, it has also had negative unintended consequences. Like the original Bridge to Nowhere, it is time to pull the plug on the policy Bridge to Nowhere and end the earmark ban.