In November the American people voted to give Republicans unified control over Congress and put Donald Trump in the White House because, in large part, we pledged to “drain the swamp” — that corrupt political culture prevailing in our nation’s capital that enables elites to manipulate the levers of government to their advantage.
Changing business as usual in Washington is a tough fight. But we would be going the wrong way if Republicans were to lift the current ban on earmarks — those infamous provisos attached to spending bills that funnel taxpayer money to pet projects and parochial interests — as some have proposed.
Consider what happened the last time a “drain the swamp” pledge was made on the campaign trail and rewarded at the ballot box. In 2006, Nancy Pelosi won the speaker’s gavel after promising to “break the link between lobbyists and legislation” in the wake of an earmark scandal and an explosion of spending facilitated by earmarks.
Our party should learn from this history. The shortest route from new majority to defeated minority is to campaign as good-government reformers and then govern as beltway-insiders. To avoid this fate Republicans should keep our focus on efforts that help make Washington accountable to “Main Street America” again and dismantle the self-serving alliance between special interests and public servants.
If this is the standard we set for ourselves, then earmarks simply cannot be justified.
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