Well, it’s been a long time coming, but the likes of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) finally got their way. This week, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced a two year moratorium on the practice of earmarking in the Senate, bringing both houses of Congress in line with pledges from the White House to veto any earmarked bill that comes before the President.
(In the interest of full disclosure, PNDC has and continues to receive federal funding that was the result of a congressional earmark for our Northwest Connectory project.)
While some observers are calling this a major capitulation by Senate Democrats, it looks to me more like a pragmatic acceptance of the new reality. President Obama has chosen to side with House Republicans in their quest to end the longstanding practice, and Senator Inouye and the rest of the Senate Democrats would have to pick a politically costly fight to retain their control over the purse strings.
This decision is likely to have a whole host of as-yet-unseen consequences on the system, so it will be interesting to watch what happens over the next few months. Earmarks not only pay for great organizations like PNDC to do economic development work, they’re also one of the main ways that public works projects get funded in municipalities around the United States. Plus, there are a few DoD programs out there that got their start as pork barrel projects (I’m looking at you, Predator, Scan Eagle, etc.)
We may not know the full implication of this moratorium, but one thing is for certain: members of Congress must take care of their districts. In the long run, it’s almost certain they’ll figure out a way to do it.