Tampa Bay Times

November 17, 2016


Rep. Tom Rooney wants to bring back earmarks for water projects


Alex Leary





Florida Rep. Tom Rooney wants to bring earmarks back to Washington – sort of – but House Speaker Paul Ryan has put up an obstacle named Donald Trump.

The Republican has offered a proposal that would allow lawmakers to designate money for water projects under the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.

“When I go home to my county commissioners, they say ‘Can you shore up the dike around Lake Okeechobee?’ I’m like, ‘no.’ I can write a letter and hope that they listen to me. Which, over at the Army Corps, they probably look at that letter and put it in the shredder. They don’t give a rat’s ass what I think,” Rooney told reporters on Wednesday.

“When I got elected, we could do this. Now we can’t.”

Rooney’s proposal is echoed by other lawmakers who feel congress have given up too much authority to the executive branch. The earmark ban has been in place since Republicans took the House in 2010.

But during a GOP conference meeting yesterday, Ryan shut down such talk, reminding the group that Trump has promised to “drain the swamp” and it would send a poor signal. Ryan, however, said earmarks could be reconsidered next year.

"We all supported the earmark ban in 2011 and still support it now," read a statement to the Times from Rooney's office.

"What we don’t support is the unintended consequence of giving unelected bureaucrats in federal agencies in Washington, DC a blank check and letting them decide whether or not to fund the economically-important dam safety, water quality, flood control, harbor maintenance and ecosystem restoration projects in our districts. There are several authorized Army Corps and Reclamation sites and projects that deserve more funding and attention than the Executive Branch has provided to date. This amendment will allow Members to request funding to shore up levees in Louisiana and Texas, to speed up flood control projects in Florida or to expedite drought response projects in California. Under our proposal, Members will be able to immediately – and in a manner that’s fully open to the public – take their unique knowledge and understanding of their hometowns and put it to use, all without increasing annual spending by a cent.

"We want to be very clear: We are not proposing a complete repeal of the earmark moratorium, nor are we advocating for increased spending or a return to the corrupt practice of earmarking funds for special interests. We know the American people are fed up with Congress and they’re sick of hearing the same inside-the-beltway excuses for inaction. Our constituents experience the consequences of the federal government’s missteps, delays and funding shortfalls and it is not only rewarding when we’re able to successfully intervene on their behalf, it is our Constitutional duty to do so responsibly and transparently. Today, you either you vote to continue the broken status quo, or to take back the reigns of control our Founding Fathers intended in Article I of the Constitution and exercise your power of the purse transparently and responsibly."