Sources in both the House and Senate are expressing grave concern to me that Republicans are about to legalize bribery. If you will recall, several years ago after a host of arrests of members of Congress, indictments, and bridges to nowhere, public outrage caused Congress to ban earmarks.
The earmarks were serving as bribery. Politicians would get earmarks sent to state and local public institutions and congressional leaders would grant and withhold earmarks as bribes to get congressmen to vote particular ways.
Senate Republicans are dragging their feet and there are, according to Senate sources, strong signals the GOP intends to end the Senate earmarks ban. Just yesterday, Senate Republicans refused to approve the earmarks ban.
On the House side, Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) is introducing an amendment to House rules that would allow an exception to the earmarks ban for "State, locality (including county and city governments), or a public utility or other public entity." A House source tells me Speaker Boehner has been firmly committed to keeping the earmarks ban, but worries other Republicans may latch on to Rogers' exception.
It is worth noting that virtually all earmarks go to "State[s], localit[ies] (including county and city governments), [and] public utilit[ies]."
With Senators Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint out of the picture, the Senate seems more likely than the House to move forward on this issue. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) referred to earmarks at "the gateway drug" for big spending. The earmarks themselves were often relatively small, but they were given by leadership to members of Congress as a form of bribery to induce those members to vote for much larger spending packages.
It would be a shame for either the House or Senate to give up on the earmarks ban -- particularly when outrage over Republican behavior related, in part, to corruption induced through earmarks led to their devastating losses in 2006.
You can connect to your member of Congress through the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and express your support for continuing the earmarks ban.