In recent years, various senators and representatives have discussed lifting Congress’ earmark moratorium. The practice of earmarking—or allowing legislators to direct federal benefits in the forms of spending, tax, or tariffs to their home districts and states—is as old as the republic. Congress officially, but not actually, swore off earmarks in 2011.
In February 2021, Policy Lab Co-Director Zach Courser and Senior Fellow Kevin Kosar from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) published a report titled Restoring the Power of the Purse: Earmarks and Re-Empowering Legislators to Deliver Local Benefits. The report finds that the 2011 moratorium on earmarks ultimately weakened the House of Representatives’ capacity to coalesce majorities to enact legislation. The report makes a number of recommendations for a reinstated earmarking process which enhances transparency, provides better access for all legislators and not just senior members of the chamber, among others.
Read the report here.