The anti-eartag letter contains a diverse mix of legislators, which shows that opposition to so-called congress-driven spending encompasses the ideological spectrum in the GOP. Among the signatories: Senator John Cornyn of Texas, an ally of minority leader Mitch McConnell; Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, a potential 2024 contender who questioned election results certification; Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, member of the GOP leadership; Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who voted in his second impeachment trial to convict former President Donald Trump; and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Trump libertarian ally.
The Senate GOP will vote Wednesday on whether to reinstate ear tags, which were first banned in 2010 after conservatives opposed sending funds to projects like the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Ketchikan, Alaska.
With Democrats planning to revive the ear tags after taking control of Congress, Republicans have argued over whether to use the spending practice. House Republicans faced a similar internal debate but ultimately voted in a secret ballot between 102 and 84 to accept ear tags as long as certain criteria are met.
The Republican ban on ear tags is one of the last vestiges of the tea party era, and some are reluctant to lift the ban in the post-Trump GOP. Critics argue that the practice is ripe for abuse and would only result in “pork kegs” spending. They also claim that it would be politically unwise to give Democratic leaders a useful tool to correct Republican votes on important bills, especially given the narrow majorities that President Joe Biden’s party holds.
However, other Republicans claim they would be at a disadvantage if they chose not to allocate funds while Democrats reap the rewards of spending. If lawmakers were given the opportunity to raise money for certain projects, those GOP lawmakers would restore power to the legislature and move it away from the Biden government. Proponents of Earmarks also point out that Republicans who do not want to participate do not have to. Lifting the ban would only open the option to GOP senators, not require them.
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.