Lawmakers Unveiling ‘Earmark’ Requests for Infrastructure Bill

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House members are pitching billions of dollars worth of projects in their home districts ranging from marine terminals to hiking trails that they want folded into President Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure package.

Lawmakers have until the end of the day Tuesday to send their proposals for district or community-level projects to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee under new rules that revived the practice of designated spending, or earmarks. More than $8 billion in such earmark requests are expected.

Both parties banned earmarks in 2011 after years of their association with wasteful projects and with corruption. As part of the conditions for the revival, the committee plans to list all of the requests in the next several days in a nod to transparency. Members also are required to announce on their own congressional websites what they’ve asked for, as several already have done.

Among them is Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, is requesting 10 projects, including $4.5 million for a marine terminal in Coos Bay, $1.5 million for a pedestrian and bicycle bridge in Eugene and $528,000 to replace transit buses in Corvallis.

Lawmakers Unveiling ‘Earmark’ Requests for Infrastructure Bill

Republican Representative Don Young of Alaska, a former Transportation committee chairman, is making 12 requests, including a $9.6 million submission for an all-season, two-mile gravel access road for four-wheel ATVs and other four-wheel-drive vehicles that will connect the city of Akutan on Akutan Island to Akutan Harbor. The road would be the only land-based access between the community and the harbor, he explained.

California Democrat Julia Brownley has made 12 requests, including seeking $440,000 tied to the City of Ojai electric trolley; and $4 million toward widening of Central Avenue in Camarillo and adding new bike lanes.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s work on the multiyear surface transportation bill will be a key component of Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, which includes spending on roads, bridges, water systems, broadband, mass transit, high-speed rail, education, schools and housing.

But Republicans have balked at the price tag and some Democrats, including West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, are urging Biden to focus on physical infrastructure first. Advocates for resuming earmarking have argued that the practice would make it easier to cut deals if members have a stake in specific projects.

After Democrats said they would revive member directed spending, House Republicans last month lifted their own ban on earmarks. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said GOP lawmakers want to have a say where money is directed in their own districts.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said Monday the Senate would restore earmarks following disclosure rules similar to those in the House. Senate Republicans have kept in place their ban on requesting earmarks, though it’s not binding and GOP senators will be able to ask for projects.

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