What's Behind The Push To Revive Congressional Earmarks

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The chamber of the House of Representatives in January at the Capitol in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
The chamber of the House of Representatives in January at the Capitol in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Democrats in Congress are pushing to revive earmarking, a process that will allow legislators to direct federal spending to their districts. They see it as a way to push policies forward. But earmarks also come with baggage. We discuss the history and ethics of earmarking, and whether it can help break the gridlock in Congress.


Jeffrey Lazarus, professor of political science at Georgia State University. (@jlazarus001)

William Galston,  senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program. (@BillGalston)

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Marcus Stern, retired journalist who was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that broke the Randy “Duke” Cunningham story for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

From The Reading List

Washington Post: "Democrats are bringing earmarks back. Aren’t earmarks bad?" — "Now that Democrats control the House and Senate, they plan to revive earmarking — a process by which legislators can direct federal spending to their home districts."

Politico: "Hoyer: 'Bipartisan' earmarks comeback in the offing" — "House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer privately told Democrats on Tuesday that earmarks will be revived this Congress and that he can "guarantee" the effort "will be bipartisan," according to two people on the call."

Fox News: "Republicans prepping campaign against earmarks as Democrats work to bring them back" — "A growing group of GOP lawmakers is planning an aggressive campaign to ban earmarks permanently as Democrats eye their return."

The Conversation: "The ‘gateway drug to corruption and overspending’ is returning to Congress – but are earmarks really that bad?" — "Congressional earmarks – otherwise known as “pork barrel spending” – may be coming back."

Reason: "Bringing Earmarks Back Won't Fix Congress" — "Before the 'Bridge to Nowhere' became a legislative cliché, there was the highway to Dennis Hastert's farm."

This program aired on February 22, 2021.


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Kimberly Atkins Stohr Guest Host, On Point
Kimberly Atkins is a senior opinion writer and columnist for Boston Globe Opinion. She's also a frequent guest host for On Point. She formerly was a senior news correspondent for WBUR.


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Jonathan Chang Producer/Director, On Point
Jonathan is a producer/director at On Point.



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