WASHINGTON – House Republicans voted Wednesday to lift their decade-long ban on appropriations, giving members the power to direct federal agencies to spend specific amounts on projects in their home districts while Democrats look for ways to get Republicans to team up with a major infrastructure package later on. this year.
The House stopped using appropriations in 2011, after the Republican Party won a majority. Reports of fraud and abuse, coupled with high-profile corruption scandals, had made the assignments politically toxic. Both parties in both chambers turned away from them. Congress imposed a moratorium on the controversial practice and then-President Barack Obama vowed to veto any bill containing appropriations.
Democrats, who now control the White House and Congress, revived the practice in the House this year and are considering bringing it back to the Senate as well. That left Republicans with the decision to also accept the assignments or maintain the ban within the party.
On Wednesday, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives framed the reactivation of allotments as a way for their party to exercise constitutional power over the portfolio of Congress, rather than handing it over to the Democratic administration of President Biden.
“There is a real concern about the administration directing where the money is going,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.). “This does not add a dollar more. I think the members here know what is most important about what is happening in their district, not Biden. “
The resolution adopted Monday by the Republican House of Representatives conference in a closed-door vote stated that no Republican would apply for appropriations unless they met certain criteria, including public disclosure, written justification, and verification that lawmakers and their families will not benefit financially.
The acceptance of the assignments was not unanimous. At least 18 Republicans signed a pledge against the appropriations circulated Wednesday by Rep. Chip Roy (R., Texas).
“We, the undersigned, pledge not to solicit appropriations or the preferred euphemism of the day, Community Project Financing,” the pledge reads. “The letter of commitment will remain open to any member of Congress who wishes to join,” the conservative House Freedom Caucus tweeted.
Democrats see the appropriations as a way to give Republicans a stake in passing a bipartisan infrastructure package, one of President Biden’s top priorities, and other spending bills.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.) Announced last month that she would allow appropriations on the House Appropriations Committee, which she chairs. She established rules that prohibit for-profit recipients, limit allocations to 1% of discretionary funds, and restrict legislators to 10 projects each. Members must post project applications and justifications online, and must certify that they and their families have no financial interests in the projects, which will be subject to audit.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D., Oregon) also said this month that lawmakers will be able to apply for highway and transit projects in an upcoming ground transportation bill.
The Senate GOP allocation ban remains in effect, for now, though talks continue between Senator Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Senator Richard Shelby (R., Alabama ), the top Republican on the panel, on bringing them back. Both senators have said that safeguards would be necessary to ensure transparency, accountability and merit.
Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said the House Republican Party had made a “serious mistake” in allowing the appropriations again and hoped the Senate Republican Party would resist doing the same.
“It’s unfortunate,” Cruz said. “Appropriations played a big role in the runaway spending we have in Washington, they played a big role in entrenching the quagmire of both parties, and when the Republican revolution led to the ban on budget appropriations, it was a major step toward limiting of the power of the swamp. And today, Republicans in the House of Representatives reversed that problem. “
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