House Republicans defend use of earmarks as Congress passes spending bills with $13 billion of pork

Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., chair of the House Freedom Caucus, disagrees with Republicans who support and sponsor earmarks, arguing that "earmarks represent the worst in Washington because they are pet projects back in somebody's district used to buy votes."

House Republican lawmakers who advocate for reducing federal spending to bring down the budget deficit are defending the use of earmarks as Congress passes a spending package that include $13 billion of them.

"When Democrats are in control, if we don't have the opportunity for our elected representatives to weigh in on these types of issues, then we're sending our tax dollars to Washington, D.C. and bureaucrats are deciding where it goes," said Rep. Erin Houchin, R-Ind., during an interview with Just the News.

Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, said he's thankful for the earmarks process, which is now formally titled, "Community Project Funding," noting that his "district was not being serviced at all" when earmarks were banned prior to 2021.

There were about 6,000 earmarks taking up 605 pages in the minibus spending package that passed. The package contains 6 appropriations bills.

"Keep in mind as representatives we are the closest to the people," Owens said on Thursday on Capitol Hill. "If there's a body that knows what the people really care for and need it is the House and what we did, we took ourselves off the plate."

Not all Republicans in Congress are on board with earmarks, known derogatorily as "pork." 

Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., told Just the News that the previous ban on earmarks should be resurrected. "It's another step in the wrong direction. It does nothing to cut our spending, it does nothing to secure our border, and worse than that, you mentioned, you've got nearly 7,000 earmarks for about $13 billion."

"And earmarks represent the worst in Washington because they are pet projects back in somebody's district used to buy votes," Good continued. "It's something that was eliminated about 15 years ago, it got brought back by the Dems when they got control. But Republicans have kept it much to my dismay, I oppose earmarks and we ought not to be doing that."

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., described the earmarks in the minibus spending package as wasteful. A second spending package is under consideration and has to be passed before a March 22 shutdown deadline.

"It's leading to generalized inflation. So, not only are they ignoring the general welfare clause, which means that spending and taxation is supposed to help everyone equally – has to be for a general cause such as the national defense that we don't have for Maine or Rhode Island or Kentucky, the national defense is for everyone, it is a general cause, but when we spend it on parochial causes, when we run up this enormous deficit, it hurts us all generally," Paul said on the Senate floor on Friday.

“Inflation is a general punishment. So, I would say this bill is not for the general welfare of the country. It is for the general punishment of the country, because if it continues a $1.5 trillion deficit that leads to inflation, that causes all of us to not be able to afford food, clothing, gasoline. That's what this is. This bill is an insult to the American people. The earmarks are all the wasteful spending that you could ever hope to see, and it should be defeated," he added.

Paul's office identified 10 earmarks that caught his attention, including:

  • $4 million for a "waterfront walkway" in New Jersey;
  • $3.5 million for "Detroit’s Thanksgiving Parade float maker’s new headquarters";
  • $1.75 million for the Met (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) located in New York City;
  • $1 million for an "environmental justice center" in New York City,
  • $500,000 to be put toward gardens in San Francisco;
  • $1 million to a non-profit organization in Minnesota to "build a coffee shop and a greenhouse for refugees";
  • $1 million in assistance for San Francisco organic dairy farmers; 
  • $500,000 in funding for a "cybercrime vehicle" in the Honolulu police department; 
  • $1.2 million for "bike path resurfacing in Rhode Island"; and
  • $209,000 for "HVAC replacement for the Charles Town Opera House" in West Virginia."

House GOP Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., was asked how he responds to conservative Republicans who opposed the spending package over the $13 billion in earmarks. "I understand why they're upset. I'm upset. The Senate does not have any guardrails on their projects," Emmer said during an interview with Just the News on Thursday before the State of the Union address.

"They just throw anything in there and it's outrageous. At least the House has some guardrails, it has to have a federal nexus and you're talking to someone who believes that I'd rather have a member of Congress under Article One of the Constitution determining where limited resources go rather than some young person or bureaucrat back in the state that might have a different political perspective," he continued.

"So I understand because I'm upset about the Senate side. There should be guard rails. On our side, I believe, and I've got to go through them, but I believe the vast majority of them are roads and bridges, sewer and water. I mean, the necessities that our communities need to run the economy, as opposed to what Democrats are doing, which is, you know, money to all kinds of luxury items," he added.