Government

Sen. Joni Ernst opposes return of earmarks

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) speaks during a news conference regarding court packing on Capitol Hill on October 21, 2020 in Wa
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) speaks during a news conference regarding court packing on Capitol Hill on October 21, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images/TNS)

DES MOINES — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said she opposes the return of congressional earmarks, calling the recently resurrected federal budgeting practice “ham-fisted.”

Since Democrats gained complete control of the federal lawmaking levers in the 2020 elections, some congressional leaders from both major political parties have expressed support for the return of earmarks, the practice of funding specific projects in broader spending bills.

Earmarks were banned in 2011 under full Republican control of Congress. Critics say earmarks increase federal spending and open the door for corruption, pointing to two earmark-related bribery scandals in Congress in the 2000s.

Ernst, during a conference call with Iowa reporters Tuesday, called earmarks a “ham-fisted tactic” that devoted taxpayer money to “special interests and (lawmakers’) own pet projects.” She said earmarks were “particularly bad and wasteful in defense legislation.”

Ernst said she will “strongly oppose” any defense funding bill that contains earmarks.

“There’s simply no reason to go back to the old wasteful and detrimental way of earmarks, and we need to permanently ban this bad practice,” Ernst said.

The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Budget Committee have supported the return of earmarks, according to USA Today. A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the committee, said Shelby is “supportive of directed appropriations that are transparent and meritorious.”

Comments: (563) 333-2659; erin.murphy@lee.net

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