Their Incumbency is Ended (But Their Earmarks Linger On)

More than 50 members of the House of Representatives lost or gave up their seats in this past election cycle. And this year’s Senate sees 14 new faces replacing departing Senators.

But despite all these personnel changes, H.R. 1105 (the omnibus appropriations bill) bears the marks of the 110th Congress, not the 111th. Among the more than 9000 earmarks are several hundred from people who are no longer members of Congress.

An ICT analysis shows that in the Senate, nine departed senators have 108 earmarks totaling just over $73 million in spending. When excluding Norm Coleman, who is in the middle of a court challenge concerning his opponent Al Franken’s apparent victory, the total drops to 99 earmarks and approximately $72 million.

In the House, 366 earmarks from departed representatives cost just over $170 million. 

These figures ignore representatives who became senators, but they do include members of Congress who joined the Obama administration.

Even though the members have moved on, these earmarks remain valid. “Earmarks from former members are treated the same as earmarks from
current members,” House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Kirstin Brost said. “There’s no distinction.”

The earmarks persist because this bill is so long overdue — it was written last year and was “due” on October 1. But veto threats from then-President Bush held off its consideration until President Obama took office.

Leaving the earmarks from those who are no longer in Congress “was a decision that was made by [House Appropriations Committee chair] Mr. Obey,” said Jim Specht, press secretary for the committee’s ranking Republican, Jerry Lewis (Calif.). “They did it for both Republicans
and Democrats, and [Lewis] doesn’t have any issue with that.”

Specht further defended the earmarks, arguing, The earmarks support the districts, not the members.”  

Do you agree with Jim Specht that there is nothing wrong with these earmarks? Or should the new members be required to sponsor them? Tell us what you think.