“What we wanted to do is to reinstate the system and to correct, if you will, what has happened in the past and to provide the restrictions, the guidelines, the guardrails,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, who first unveiled a proposal for bringing back the practice.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said that he planned to speak with his Republican counterpart, Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, about the process moving forward. Mr. Leahy had previously floated the possibility of dividing a pot of money evenly between Democrats and Republicans, with similar transparency guardrails.
“Democrats are going to use the earmarks and the House Republicans are going to use them — are we going to give the Democrats in the Senate $8 billion to use against us?” Mr. Shelby said, referring to the possible pot of money lawmakers could divvy up. “If you don’t want an earmark, don’t ask for one, and even if you ask for one, you might not get one because the old earmark days — they’re gone.”
The projects, however, will be funded only if Congress reaches agreement on the dozen annual spending bills and the total levels of domestic and military spending. Efforts to include earmarks in other bills, including infrastructure legislation, could be jettisoned should Democrats decide to advance it through the fast-track budget reconciliation process, which is subject to strict Senate rules.
Other Republicans stressed that they hoped their colleagues would join them in opposition to earmarks, even if Democrats moved ahead.
“We shouldn’t be pursuing this. And for Republicans to support those earmarks, it’s almost like incremental liberalism,” said Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa. “Americans see so much money being spent, and they’re going to wonder why on earth are we supporting additional spending on other projects that may or may not be worthy.”