Mississippi Senators among Senate GOP not changing the rules.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate had been holding talks over whether to embrace the return of earmarks, a practice that for generations allowed members to direct spending to specific projects within their districts.
The practice of earmarks, often referred to as “pork projects,” was banned in the U.S. House in 2011. It wasn’t until 2019 that the U.S. Senate put the ban into their rules.
House Democrats have now changed their chamber’s stance, again allowing specific requests for funding in individual districts. The House Republicans followed suit, allowing their members to request such funding.
“The pork is back for Republicans — or a lean version of it, at least,” the Washington Examiner reported in March, adding, “House Republicans on Wednesday voted to lift their internal ban on seeking earmarks after a decade-long ban of the practice.”
According to the Washington Examiner, the new rules from Republican members require that to request funds for their district the request must be public and members must provide “a written justification for why the project is an appropriate use of taxpayer funds.”
A list of 15 Senate Republicans signed on to a letter opposing what they called an “inherently wasteful spending practice” ahead a their regularly scheduled caucus meeting this week.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) April 19, 2021
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans huddled and, without fanfare, maintained their collective position on earmarks, upholding their caucus’ ban on the practice. As one insider told Y’all Politics, the votes to make a change were obviously not there, making it a non-issue among members.
This caucus decision included both Mississippi Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith.
The rule among Senate Republicans states that it “is the policy of the Republican Conference that no Member shall request a congressionally directed spending item, limited tax benefit, or limited tariff benefit, as such items are used in Rule XLIV of the Standing Rules of the Senate.”
However, the caucus’ ban does not prohibit individual Senators from requesting direct funding for projects.
“That doesn’t mean anything … It’s up to the individual,” Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) is reported by Fox News as saying. “If you don’t want to earmark, don’t ask for one.”
Senator Wicker supported the earmark moratorium back in 2010 when the discussion first began and in 2019. In a 2010 statement, Wicker said the people have been loud and clear about their desire to clean up the out-of-control spending in Washington, and he was listening.
“The message from home is strong and my job is to represent their voices. Banning earmarks now is an important first step demonstrating that we are serious about the debt and runaway spending,” Wicker stated then, adding, “While I have concerns about turning over more power to the administration and federal bureaucrats, I think it is important that Congress take a timeout and review the earmark process. I am committed to cutting spending and getting our fiscal house in order, and that means changing the way business is done in Washington.”
Mississippi once benefited greatly from earmarks, particularly as it pertains to defense spending, with former U.S. Senator Thad Cochran at the helm of the Senate Appropriations Committee and former U.S. Senator Trent Lott being in the top tier of Senate Republican leadership as well as serving as Senate Majority Leader.
Cochran’s ability to bring home the bacon to his state earned him the title of “The Quiet Persuader.” His impact in helping the Mississippi Gulf Coast recover following the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina cannot be understated.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday also expressed the need to ban the practice of raising the debt ceiling without also proposing spending cuts.