House Rules Committee Hearings to Flirt With Earmarks

Focus will be on pros, cons of control of pursestrings

Texas Rep. Pete Sessions says members should have a say in how spending is directed, meaning once-taboo earmarks might be getting another look. (Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

The Republican-led House is being somewhat overshadowed by the nomination fights engulfing its Senate counterpart. But on the GOP side of the aisle, one of the issues that will start heating up in the coming weeks is the debate about bringing back earmarks.

The House Rules Committee will hold a series of hearings before making a decision about whether and how to soften the current earmark ban.

Rules Chairman Pete Sessions said members are frustrated by the House’s lack of control over spending priorities because of the earmark ban, noting that it’s approximately $18 billion of appropriated funds that the administration gets to decide how to spend instead of Congress.

“The president of the United States made decisions, including some, excluding others, and I don’t think it worked in the best interest,” the Texas Republican said.

It will be up to the Rules Committee to come up with a better process, Sessions said. But first, the panel will soon schedule a series of hearings to get a variety of perspectives.

“Over the next several months, we will have people who come talk to us about a constitutional view of it,” Sessions said. “We will have people come talk to us who have been helped by the process, or who’ve benefited. We will have people whom it harmed, or had no way to participate in the opportunity to get the $18 billion. I’m sure we will include some agencies who will come and say they enjoyed sole decision-making authority with taxpayer money.”

After the hearings, the committee will make a recommendation, Sessions said. He added that Republicans intend to include Democrats in the process and ensure they’re looking at the needs of the entire country, not just one political party.

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