“Chairman Sessions, Ranking Member Slaughter, and members of the committee: Thank you for inviting me to testify on the subject of congressional earmarks. I appreciate the opportunity to share some specific thoughts on the constitutional basis for congressionally directed spending, dispel some misconceptions, and explain the essential role of directed spending in addressing our nation’s long list of tough challenges. I will then suggest some additional approaches to ensure that a return of earmarks does not suffer from some of the abuses that occurred in the past.
During my testimony I will focus on the following points:
- Under the Constitution, it is Congress that has the authority and obligation to direct how money shall be expended from the U.S. Treasury. Members of Congress are adequately informed and responsible to play a role alongside the Executive Branch in prioritizing the critical needs faced by their constituents.
- Congressional earmarks do not increase federal spending, and comprise a nominal portion of total federal outlaysBetween fiscal years 1996 to 2006, direct Congressional spending accounted for 0.80% to 1.10% of total spending.[footnote]Rob Porter, Sam Walsh, “Earmarks in the Federal Budget Process”, Harvard Law School Federal Budget Policy Seminar Briefing Paper No. 16 (last updated April 1, 2008), 30.[/footnote]
- The earmark process spiraled out of control in the mid-2000’s creating a legacy of mistrust that must be addressed. Congress was well on the way to implementing necessary guardrails when the moratorium was adopted, but more must be done.
- The restoration of an effective system of congressionally directed spending will increase Congress’ capacity to take on tough issues like deficit reduction that are critical to the national interest and often controversial with constituents.”