For decades, Congress used earmarks to buy votes for midnight, trillion-dollar spending bills and other wasteful spending. Taxpayer dollars were wasted on things like the $223 million Bridge to Nowhere and the $50 million indoor rainforest. Several Members of Congress and dozens of lobbyists were even indicted and went to prison for earmark corruption in the early 2000’s.
That’s why Republicans banned earmarks for a decade. Unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi brought them back to buy votes and waste taxpayer money. We recently learned that even though Congress stripped out her $200 million earmark for lavish hotels and a golf course in her San Francisco neighborhood, she convinced the Park Service to break their own rules and she got the $200 million anyway. Last Congress, I refused to participate in this corrupt process, and I spent a considerable amount of time arguing against earmarks. It doesn’t make sense to add fuel to out-of-control spending, further jack up our national debt, and send inflation skyrocketing.
These are some of the reasons a handful of my Republican colleagues and I took action this January to make historic changes to the House rules, including the earmark process.
As a result of our historic changes, I am now able to fight for important infrastructure projects for the Third District of Colorado. Specifically, I recently submitted Congressionally Directed Spending requests for constructing the I-70 Cottonwood Pass Blue Hill Project to help prevent lengthy and costly I-70 closures; building Glenwood Springs’ South Bridge Project to provide critical evacuation access; extending Pueblo’s Medal of Honor Boulevard to reduce commuter times and improve public safety; building important water distribution infrastructure for the City of Craig; building Gunnison’s water treatment plant to supply clean water; renovating Silt’s water plant to improve drinking water; increasing water storage in Huerfano County; improving US Highway 160 in Bayfield; building a new interchange on I-70 at 29 Road in Grand Junction to improve mobility and public safety; and increasing water storage and constructing a critical water supply in Moffat County.
This is possible because I helped make important changes related to Congressionally Directed Spending (“earmarks”). These changes were made to strip out corrupt, vote-buying behavior. Moving forward, House earmarks are constrained by the following:
- Each project must have a federal nexus and be authorized by Congress.
- Submissions for museums, memorials, and commemoratives – and projects like the “Michelle Obama trail” – are prohibited from project funding.
- Accounts that were all significantly abused in the past, including the Financial Services and General Government, Defense, Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor accounts – are prohibited from project funding.
- Priority funding will be used for real infrastructure, water and sewer improvements, rural and economic development, and public safety projects.
- Earmarks will not exceed .5% of all discretionary spending.
- Members must certify that they and their immediate families have no financial interest in projects.
- For-profit entities are not eligible for project funding.
- Requests must be publicly posted online for transparency.
Other important rules changes made in January include: Representatives now have at least 72 hours to read bills, we are only considering single subject legislation, we are set to fund the government as intended by passing 12 individual appropriations bills through regular order, and we are debating and allowing amendments from Members on all sides of the political spectrum. These changes are working – I have already passed 2 bills and 8 amendments through the House on a bipartisan basis.
Of equal importance, we can also use the new process to prevent the executive branch from manipulating the federal grant process. The Biden administration weaponized this process to steer grants to blue districts, to the detriment of rural America. They also demanded diversity, equity, and inclusion criteria for applicants.
Instead of playing this con game, the new Congressionally Directed Spending process allows Members of Congress to exercise their power of the purse and ensure that funding is instead directed to important projects. This cuts the bureaucratic middlemen and their woke requirements out of the process and instead directs funding to where it is needed most.
These infrastructure projects I’m pursuing will benefit rural Colorado by increasing our transportation resiliency and combatting western drought. They will also ensure we are not dependent on an unfair, political federal grant process.
I did not go to Washington to join their club. I went there to fix it. Tackling earmarks was an important step. I will continue working every day to help improve communities across Colorado’s Third District and make it the best region of the country to live, work, and raise a family.