Zachary Courser and Kevin R. Kosar have an AEI report titled “Restoring the power of the purse: Earmarks and re-empowering legislators to deliver local benefits”

Key Points

  • Article I of the US Constitution gives Congress the authority to decide the amount of federal dollars spent and to direct how they are spent.
  • The 2011 earmark moratorium was a reaction to incidents of corruption and budget deficits, but its primary effect has reduced Congress’ constitutional spending authority. The moratorium failed to eliminate directed spending and fomented the less-transparent, but equivalent, executive branch practice of lettermarking.
  • Congress should revisit the earmark moratorium to re-empower legislators to deliver local benefits, reestablish Congress’ Article I spending authority over the executive branch, and decrease polarization and gridlock.
  • This new system for enabling legislators to deliver local benefits should be transparent from beginning to end and include post hoc audits to ensure funds are properly spent to prevent waste and abuse.