Mar 31, 2006
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper introduced an amendment in House Budget Committee on Wednesday that would help to reform the growing practice of earmarks.

"This would not end earmarks but it would curb the practice of ‘stealth' earmarks," Cooper said. "It would require that earmarks in the future have to be part of statutory language in the bill. They couldn't just be part of a report which is seldom read by anybody."

Cooper introduced a bill earlier this year with U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) that also mandates that all earmarks be included in the text of a spending bill. Members of Congress are only able to amend actual bill text. Currently, earmarks are most often contained in committee or conference reports.

The Congressional Research Service has found that there were 15,877 earmarks in 2005, almost four times as many as in 1994, when Democrats last held a House majority. The total bill to taxpayers for those earmarks was $47.4 billion.

While the number of earmarks has grown dramatically in recent years, the practice itself is not new. According to The Heritage Foundation, lawmakers used to "fund government grant programs and then let federal and state agencies select individual grant recipients through a competitive application process. Now, Congress actually determines within legislation, who will receive government grants by "earmarking" grant money to specific recipients. Earmarks are also known as ‘pork projects.' "

"The public is concerned about earmarks and this is an excellent bipartisan opportunity (to address the problem)," Cooper said in the Budget Committee hearing. "This is an effort to have transparency, disclosure, sunshine. Everybody should be for this. This is an opportunity for this committee to lay down their mark and say we just want honest budgeting.

"It does not end earmarks," Cooper said. "It just puts them in the sunshine."

The amendment failed to win passage but Cooper said he will continue to fight for earmark reform in Congress.