According to press accounts, House Rules Committee Chair Pete Sessions (R-Texas) Feb. 14 said in a Republican Conference meeting he plans to hold hearings to discuss the reintroduction of earmarks, also known as “congressionally directed spending,” or more recently referred to as “line item appropriations.” This comes after Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) delayed a previous proposal in the 115th Rules package to include earmarks.
Reporting indicates that members of the Republican Conference are displaying mixed support. One press account pointed out that House Appropriations Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) stated, “I’ve always supported earmarks, but I think it’s obviously up to the caucus,” and that “the devil is in the details.”
The ban on earmarks was set by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in 2011. Prior to the ban, members of Congress often used earmarks to draw colleagues to support legislation or to direct federal funding to particular states, districts, or cities.
For earmarks to be fully implemented, the majority conference in both congressional chambers must agree to similar resolutions. House Republicans planned to discuss their proposal during a Feb. 16 meeting and press reports state that the Rules committee will wait until July to release its recommendation. The Senate Republican Conference has not announced public discussions or hearings.