Anyone still in doubt of Paul Ryan’s ability to lead the House Republicans and his commitment to responsible governance should give credit to the Speaker for ending hopes of a secret vote to bring back earmarks next week. Speaker Ryan didn’t say that earmarks shouldn’t be brought back but recognized that doing so behind closed doors is inappropriate and that it would simply be handing the media easy fodder to go after Republicans, which had already begun.
The House began banning earmarks in 2010 in the House Appropriations Committee and was a hard and fast “no going back” rule by former-Speaker John Boehner. There has been consistent disagreement between Republicans in both the House and Senate on whether the earmark ban is effective. From Fox News:
Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who co-authored one of the plans to restore earmarks, said he was “confident we can develop a method to handle directed congressional spending in a way that gives constituents confidence that their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent effectively.”
Former House Speaker John Boehner imposed a moratorium on earmarks in 2011 after they became associated with boondoggle projects and corruption.
However, lawmakers say the moratorium has given power to “unelected bureaucrats” in the executive branch who now decide whether projects important to local districts are built.
“There’s a sentiment that we’ve given away too much of our own power to the executive branch,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a seven-term veteran and ally of both Boehner and Ryan.
Asked about President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp,” Cole replied that the swamp “must be in the executive branch,” because voters “didn’t change much in the legislative branch,” where Republicans maintained control of both chambers.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the third-ranking House Republican, said that under President Barack Obama, executive-branch officials “are writing rules and regulations that are having a negative impact on our economy. It’s time to restore that balance and frankly return that power to the people of this country.”
That’s all well and fine and there’s a debate to be had over the issue, but Paul Ryan made the right call to take it off the voting agenda for next week’s private session:
“We just had the ‘drain the swamp’ election,” Ryan said, according to a senior House GOP source. “We don’t want to turn around two weeks later and have earmarks.”
Sometimes it really does seem as though Republicans cannot help themselves from finding bad optics. Speaker Ryan deserves credit for avoiding the media shellacking from those who are still disgruntled that Trump and the Republicans pulled off wins in every direction last week.