The National Desk Fact Check Team: What's in the $16B Set Aside for Earmarks by Congress? 6_TND_fact_check_-_earmarks

June 30, 2023 11:25 PM


by KONNER MCINTIRE | The National Desk

After a nearly 11-year ban, earmarks – money set aside for localized projects in Congressional bills – have made a comebackafter Congress reinstated them in 2021. 

The reintroduction of earmarks has sparked debate, with proponents arguing for their potential to support localized development and opponents expressing concerns about potential abuse and wasteful spending

A newly released report, conducted by government watchdog organization, sheds light on how many earmarks were included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 (H.R. 2617).

Auditors from the organization found the 7,509 disclosed earmarks had a price tag surpassing $16 billion.

Retired Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, who for years served as the head of the Senate Banking and Appropriations committees, secured the most in such funding, amounting to over $600 million – for infrastructure projects wtih the state port authority, bridge repair and funding for the University of Alabama's medical school.

The report also highlighted that Republicans had more earmarks than Democrats in 21 states. However, when considering the overall breakdown, Democrats outspent Republicans with earmarks amounting to $9.1 billion, while Republicans allocated $6.4 billion.

Earmarks primarily encompass local projects that lawmakers seek federal funding for in their respective districts. 

A report from the Brookings Institute suggests that Republicans and Democrats tend to prioritize different types of projects: Democrats' earmark requests often lean toward want-based projects, including education and community development, while Republicans focus on need-based initiatives such as road and bridge improvements.

The OpenTheBooks report cited eye-catching examples, such as $500,000 allocated for the renovation of baseball fields in Philadelphia and $6 million directed to institutions where lawmakers' spouses work.

However, there are some limits to what qualifies as an earmark. Both the House and Senate have differing rules and follow distinct guidelines.

In both chambers, for-profit recipients are prohibited, and members must disclose their requests and confirm they do not have a financial interest in their requests.

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