How Congress Can Make the Earmark Process Work


Congress holds the “power of the purse,” but it has limited the exercise of this right by refraining from earmarking, the practice of directing funds to specific projects (like road improvements) at the request of members of Congress. For many years, both members of Congress and the public criticized earmarks, alleging that they were fiscally irresponsible and corrupt. When the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives following the 2010 midterm elections, Congress suspended the formal practice of earmarking. Ever since, some have criticized the policy and have called on Congress to resume earmarking. Indeed, Congress should consider restoring earmarks, since these provisions have a legitimate place in the legislative process. Reintroducing reformed earmarks would allow Congress to reassert its constitutional role over both the country’s finances and policy. Congress has many tools at its disposal to promote a healthy earmark process, and if it implements additional reforms, the practice could be revived responsibly, limiting the opportunity for abuse that was present in the previous system.


Stanford University Stanford, California
  • Mark Strand & Timothy Lang, How Congress Can Make the Earmark Process Work, 29 Stan. L. & Pol'y Rev. Online, Mar. 2018, at 1.    
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