Press Release ● Congress
For Immediate Release: 
January 17, 2018
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) testified before the House Rules Committee on the importance of Congressional earmarks and reforms set in place while Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery: 
 
Click here to watch the full testimony.
 
"Thank you, Chairman Collins and Ranking Member Slaughter.  I appreciate you holding this hearing today.  While I recognize that there isn’t a specific recommendation on the table, this is an issue important for Members of the House to discuss.

“When Republicans banned Congressionally directed spending in 2011, they did so by changing their Conference rules, not by altering the rules of the House.  I am curious whether it is the Subcommittee’s intention to explore whether to recommend a change to the Republican Conference’s rules or whether to take House action.  No matter what the Congress does on earmarks, it ought to be done in a bipartisan way.

“I’ve long been a proponent of Congressionally directed spending for reasons I will get into shortly.  However, it’s clear that in the past the system was abused. 

“When Democrats took the Majority in 2007, we engaged in a serious earmark-reform process that introduced transparency and accountability.  We changed the rules so that the public could see every item of Congressionally directed spending, who the sponsor was, and whether it had been dropped into a bill in conference without prior consideration. Moreover, we required every Member requesting an earmark to certify that he or she had no financial interest in the request.  Later, we made the system even more transparent by requiring all Members to post earmark requests and justifications on their websites.  We introduced new restrictions blocking earmarks benefitting for-profit entities as opposed to public entities.

“We had engaged, I believe, in a very successful reform of the earmark process that addressed the problems of the past and made it much harder to game the system.  When Republicans came into the Majority in 2011, however, there was an eagerness to win a quick victory in the realm of Congressional reform and eliminating earmarks altogether was the low-hanging fruit.  Now, just as we saw the consequences of an unchecked system in the past, we’ve now seen also the unintended consequences of eliminating Congressionally directed spending altogether. 

“President Trump wasn’t wrong when he said that earmarks used to help bring both parties together to reach compromises on legislation.  But more than that, they recognize that Members of Congress individually know their districts better than anyone at federal agencies and better than the Appropriations Committee as a whole.

“The Houston Chronicle pointed this out in an editorial last Friday, when it lamented the difficulties the city’s Representatives have had trying to get specific appropriations for flood cleanup and rebuilding efforts.  ‘Without the ability to write line-item expenditures,’ the editors wrote, ‘our local delegation and city advocates have been forced to craft legislative language that – they hope – will instruct executive agencies to prioritize Houston flood infrastructure.’

“But without specific, directed spending, it is ultimately up to executive branch agencies in Washington to decide which projects get funding.  We’ve seen an unintended shift in decision-making away from the legislative branch to the executive one.  That is contrary to Article I of the Constitution, which invests Congress with the ‘power of the purse.’

“So I believe that we should take action to reinstate the use of the authority given to the Congress under Article I, Section 9, Clause 7, to direct spending in the way the Congress deems appropriate.  Such authority should be subject to the reforms that Democrats included in the House rules in the 110th and 111th Congresses.  Our reforms are, it should be noted, still the rules of the House, regardless of either party’s internal caucus rules.

“I thank the Chairman and Ranking Member again for this opportunity to testify today, and I look forward to answering the Subcommittee’s questions.”