Congress isn’t accomplishing much lately, but Senate Republicans deserve credit for one thing they aren’t doing: Restoring the practice of earmarks. The Senate Republican conference on Thursday adopted a permanent ban on such parochial handouts, an effort led by Nebraska’s Ben Sasse.
Earmarks in the early 2000s were a hardy perennial in appropriations bills, from defense to transportation. The 11 appropriations bills for 2006 included $29 billion in earmarked spending across some 9,963 projects, according to Citizens Against Government Waste. The classic of the genre was Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere.”
Republicans suffered as earmarks became a symbol of corruption and waste. Recall Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Duke Cunningham, who went to prison. Chastened Republicans campaigned in 2010 on an earmark ban and they’ve mostly stayed on the wagon.