Trump suggests bringing back earmarks

Donald Trump suggested that Congress consider bringing back earmarks as a way to improve bipartisanship.

Earmarks were banned when the GOP took control of the House in 2010.  Most conservatives deride the practice of adding funds to legislation dedicated to a specific project because earmarks represented the worst of "pork-barrel spending."  Too many earmarks went for frivolous projects like naming a post office after a member or the notorious "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska sponsored by earmark champion Senator Ted Stevens.

But Trump suggested that earmarks are not all bad and that with proper oversight, they could help bring the two sides together.

The Hill:

"Maybe we should think about it," Trump told a group of roughly two dozen lawmakers at the White House.  "Maybe all of you should think about going back to a form of earmarks.  You should do it."

Former [House] speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) banned earmarks, which have been derided as "pork-barrel spending," after Republicans retook the House in 2010.

But House Republicans are debating whether to bring back earmarks, even as some members blast them as a symbol of the so-called swamp in Washington, D.C.[] that Trump campaigned against.

Trump's remarks Tuesday appeared to give that push a boost. 

"We have to put better controls because it got a little out of hand, but that brings people together," the president said.

Trump said the "levels of hatred" among Republicans and Democrats are "out of control" and that earmarks could help solve [the situation]. 

He recalled a bygone era when members of both parties bonded over meals and late-night talks in the nation's capital. 

Trump turned to House [m]inority [w]hip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and asked, "When's the last time you took a Republican out to dinner?"

The president spoke during a bipartisan meeting on spending and immigration.  Congress has reached an impasse on the issues ahead of a Jan. 19 government shutdown deadline.

Trump is trying to position himself as a bipartisan leader ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. 

Imagine the "resistance" sitting down with the enemy to sup.  A "spirit of bipartisanship" is a lovely goal, but the times we live in simply won't allow it.

But Trump has a point.  Earmarks used to grease the skids of legislation, giving both sides a stake in passing spending bills.  The problem with them has always been accountability and transparency.  Earmarks were usually added in secret and at the last moment before a vote.  Sometimes, they were added after a vote had already been taken.

Is there a reasonable way to employ earmarks without busting the budget and allowing members time to read and consider them?  I think no matter what system they would come up with, it would eventually lead to the kind of abuses that caused earmarks to be banned in the first place.  There is so little responsibility on the Hill in spending taxpayer money that ways will be found to circumvent any effort to impose transparency and accountability on future earmarks.

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