House GOP Yanks Transportation Earmark Requests — For How Long?

When House Republicans voted recently to renounce all earmarks for this year, the move appeared to one-up Democrats’ pledge to forgo earmarks to for-profit entities in 2010 — a vow that would not extend to transportation projects.

large_steve_latourette.jpgRep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) (Photo: Cleveland.com)

In fact, the congressional newspaper Roll Call reported today that GOP members of the House infrastructure committee have begun walking back their earmark requests for the next long-term federal transportation bill, leaving the panel’s leaders with a smaller pool of local road, transit, and bridge projects to evaluate.

But the devil is in the details, as one Republican revealed to the newspaper (emphasis mine):

[The earmark removal] means that if a highway bill or water resources bill does move through
Congress this year, House Republicans may be the only Members who can’t
get a road widened or a drainage ditch dug in their district. …

Rep.
Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), who submitted four dozen project requests
for the highway bill, said Friday, “The [GOP] Conference, for the reason that
they think the current system is broken, they’ve decided to take a
little rest” from earmarks. But LaTourette said it seems unlikely the
highway bill or the WRDA bill is going to pass this year anyway
, and
“next year we are going to put in place something that makes the people
who think that earmarks in general are bad feel better … and we will
be back to earmarks with transparency.”

Few in the capital would dispute LaTourette’s prediction that lawmakers’ opposition to a gas tax hike and reluctance to pursue alternative financing options spell further delays in new federal legislation.

But if the GOP reinstates its earmark requests after this fall’s midterm elections, just in time for the next transportation bill to come to a vote in spring 2011, the party’s time-limited ban may well backfire by alienating its conservative base.

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