Speaker Paul Ryan made a move after the “drain the swamp” election that could potentially bode well for more transparency in government: postponing a vote about legislative earmarks.
The Hill reported:
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday persuaded GOP lawmakers to postpone a vote on two measures that would chip away at the ban on legislative earmarks.
The House Republican conference was set to vote on changes to the House GOP rules that would allow lawmakers to direct pieces of spending for pet causes in their districts, under certain circumstances.
One source in the room told The Hill about the conference:
After a long debate, it was clear there’s a lot of pent up frustration with ceding spending authority to the Executive Branch.
Based on the comments by members, it was likely that an earmark amendment would have passed. Ultimately, the speaker stepped in and urged that we not make this decision today.
The source added, “[Ryan] said we just had a ‘drain the swamp’ election and cannot turn right around and bring back earmarks behind closed doors.”
The issue is certainly a complex one. While spending authority should not be ceded to the federal government and Congress needs to be able to secure the funds their constituents’ need, it does need to be done transparently and with restraint.
Ryan’s move could be viewed one of two ways — he’s either pushing for centralized control of spending by attempting to kill the measure, which wouldn’t be surprising coming from Ryan, or it’s as simple as an effort to make sure that the decision is done transparently.
Culberson released a statement:
Today, Speaker Paul Ryan pledged to create a transparent and accountable process to restore Congress’ constitutional spending authority by the end of the first quarter of 2017.
My colleagues and I agreed to withdraw our amendment based on the Speaker’s promise because we are confident we can develop a method to handle directed congressional spending in a way that gives constituents confidence that their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent effectively.
The Hill reported:
The broader provision would allow lawmakers to direct specific funds to some federal agencies — such as the Defense Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Reclamation — and state and local governments. It would continue to ban Congress from earmarking federal cash for recreational facilities, museums or parks.
The proposal would require members sponsoring earmarks to be identified. The earmarks would have to be initiated during the committee process, and they could not increase total spending for any fiscal year.
We’ll see how this goes in 2017…
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