Passage late last week of the omnibus appropriations bill funding much of the federal government for the rest of the 2009 fiscal cycle affirmed the much-debated but unquestionably helpful right of Congress to earmark appropriations for specific projects.
Mississippi gained millions of dollars in the omnibus bill because the congressional delegation – representatives and senators - continued the historic practice of designating specific approved funds for projects in our state.
Most of the designated spending for Mississippi’s universities, infrastructure, agencies and programs would have been sent to some other state had our delegation not stood up for our interests.
Some principled opponents of earmarks like Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, want earmarks abolished. Our two equally conservative GOP senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, vigorously disagree with McCain, as do many others in both parties in the House and Senate. McCain’s amendment to strike all earmarks from the omnibus bill was defeated by a 63-32 bipartisan vote.
Any practice can be abused, including even carefully monitored competitive contracts awarded by the government to private-sector businesses.
The principle on which earmarks rest is constitutional.