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They’re baaaaaaaaaack – Earmarks that is

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Late last week, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) announced a process for bringing back congressional directed funding, also known as earmarks. Additionally, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) disseminated a “Dear Colleague” letter to members of Congress indicating his plan to include earmarks in the upcoming highway bill, which is expected to be part of a larger House infrastructure package.

Earmarks are projects that receive some level of federal funding for state and local projects in congressional districts. They differ from competitive grant programs in that competitive grants are applied for and decided by staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), whereas earmarks are advocated for by interested parties and members of Congress decide if they want to include them in a particular legislative vehicle.

Because of an extremely bloated earmark process in the 2005 surface transportation bill, Congress opted to ban earmarks starting in 2011. Since then, there have been occasional rumors that they may return; however, DeLauro’s and DeFazio’s announcements mark the first time there has been this serious of an effort.